Goodwill store lures bargain shoppers in Robinson

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Evelyn Novak of Kennedy took home her treasures for $1.99 each.

"I collect salt and pepper shakers, and I don't have cabbages," she said, grasping two green, vegetable-shaped curios in the checkout line of the recently opened Goodwill Store and Donation Center in Robinson.

Happy with her bargain, she planned to add the shakers to her 125-pair collection.

The first Goodwill store in the West Hills -- and the first solar-powered Goodwill built in Pennsylvania -- opened Jan. 25 in the Robinson Town Centre retail hub, next to Costco and less than a mile from The Mall at Robinson.

The 15,000-square-foot facility includes a drive-through donation drop-off. Cars pull around back until a bell dings, like at a full-serve gas pump, and an attendant steps through an automatic sliding door to accept bags or boxes of clothing, toys, furniture, computers and other household goods.

So far, at least 100 donors a day have used the drop-off, a figure comparable to the traffic handled by the donation trailer that Goodwill formerly operated next to the Eat'n Park on Steubenville Pike.

That trailer was closed and removed once the new donation center opened.

Many customers visited the store for the first time last week and said the building was spacious, bright and clean, and the location was convenient to their other shopping and errands.

Ms. Novak's friend Phyllis Clark, who was visiting from Salina, purchased a $1 handkerchief to sew into a quilt.

Cheryl Hershiser of Hancock County, W.Va., donated some items reaped from her "New Year de-cluttering" before heading into the store to peruse books.

Jennifer Ladue of Kennedy looked for clothes for her 3-year-old daughter.

"I don't care about [them being] hand-me-downs because it saves me money," she said.

Yvette Cook of Kennedy said the thrift store is a nice addition to the community, where many people are on tight budgets.

"It gives a lower price point," she said. "If you're careful, you can find good quality."

Her husband, Bill Cook, said he was impressed with Goodwill's alternative energy efforts.

"I really appreciate that the roof is all solar cells and it's healthy for the environment," he said.

More than 200 rooftop solar units generate nearly half the electricity for the prototype store, according to Goodwill.

David Tobiczyk, the vice president of marketing and development for Goodwill Southwestern Pennsylvania, said the nonprofit organization has been going green since before it was trendy to do so.

"At Goodwill, our whole business is built on reuse," he said.

In addition to selling secondhand items in its stores, Goodwill works with other groups to refurbish, recycle and salvage millions of pounds of unsold goods, from leather belts to stuffed animal toys to computers.

Goodwill has reduced its trash volume by more than half over the past two to three years, Mr. Tobiczyk said.

Reducing waste is not only environmentally responsible, he said, but also financially beneficial to Goodwill's charity work.

The agency uses its revenues to provide job training and other services to people with physical, mental, educational, social and economic disadvantages.

Robinson is the 30th Goodwill store to open in the region, which also includes stores in Banksville, Rochester and Peters. Burns & Scalo Real Estate Services, along with Scalo Solar Solutions, built the facility and leased it to Goodwill.

Store manager Norma Russell said the Robinson location has served between 234 and 350 customers a day -- a high volume for any Goodwill store. The store will employ 25 people once fully staffed, she said.

Ms. Russell celebrated her 30th year as a Goodwill employee on opening day in Robinson. She had participated in the organization's workforce development program before being hired by the thrift store network.

Three decades at Goodwill have jaded her on knickknacks -- she sticks to clothes, shoes and purses when she shops -- and have made her an expert clothing sorter.

Robinson workers organize, price, label and shelve about 1,500 donated items each day. Ms. Russell can sort 125 to 140 garments an hour, compared to the average of 75 to 85 pieces.

"But I don't hold others to my standard," she said with a laugh.

Store and donation hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Information: or 412-490-3015.

Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: . First Published February 9, 2012 5:00 AM


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