Goodwill Industries of Central Florida is in expansion mode, moving current stores to bigger and redesigned locations and, in some cases, building entirely new stores, said William G. Oakley, the organization's president and CEO.
The newest is a stand-alone 20,000-plus square-foot, $5.2 million store in Lake County planned to be built on a 3.86 acre site on the north side of U.S. 441, west of Gables Drive that was recently annexed into Eustis. It will replace a much smaller store in an older shopping center in Eustis on S.R. 19 near U.S. 441. A construction schedule has not been set yet.
Three weeks ago it opened a store in Port Orange at 1752 Dunlawton Road at the intersection of Taylor in Volusia County. At that site Goodwill had the building built to its specifications.
Two months ago it moved a location in Palm Bay in Brevard County from one leased location to another that was substantially larger, said Oakley.
And about a year ago it moved its other Lake County store in Leesburg across U.S. 441 to a bigger, brighter, better organized location, a former Office Max that it purchased a year ago.
Currently it has 28 stores open, 29 when the Goldenrod Road store opens sometime next year, he said.
The goal of the store makeovers is two-fold: First, make it easy for donors to drop off their donations and receive receipts for tax purposes, hopefully increasing the likelihood of getting donations. So the new stores have special drop off zones with help on hand to unload.
The other is to enhance shoppers' experiences by making the stores larger to offer more merchandise and also keeping merchandise organized and easier to find. Apparel, for instance, is classified by color, which also makes the store look better as well, said Oakley.
"Although many, many customers spend more than an hour in a Goodwill Store visit, everybody is busy and time is a premium," said Oakley.
During the recession, with land and construction prices lower, Goodwill used its own cash for new store sites and renovations. Now, with the economy improved and land prices and construction costs rising, it is using a different strategy.
With the stores in on Goldenrod in Orlando, Eustis, Port Orange, and Apopka, it is using investors to finance the projects. Goodwill finds the land, negotiates a contract to buy, designs the building, moves the project through municipal approvals and construction, and then finds an investor who buys the land and then leases the building to Goodwill.