Pasco's Goodwill store has packed up and moved into a bigger building across town.
The new store celebrates its grand opening from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. today at 3521 W. Court St.
Goodwill made the move from downtown Pasco for several reasons, said Gordon Comfort, executive director of Goodwill Industries of the Columbia.
"The former location in downtown Pasco was hard to find, parking was scarce and we wanted a more centralized location. We also wanted to open an employment center and there was no space in our old location," he said.
For decades, Goodwill had been housed in a former roller rink on Columbia Street in downtown Pasco. Comfort said the Goodwill board looked at many options before buying the building on West Court Street.
The nonprofit bought the building last year for $1.65 million and made about $1 million in tenant improvements, according to a Pasco building permit.
The building, a former Kmart store, is 76,000 square feet but about 10,000 square feet are leased through the end of 2014 to a company using it as a party hall. There are also areas of the building set aside to possibly be leased to tenants in the future.
"It's a beautiful new store. We're proud of how it turned out. The remodel went really well. It's a lot brighter, a lot bigger," said Marcy Fisher, special projects coordinator for Goodwill Industries of the Columbia, which has three stores in the Tri-Cities, plus stores in Sunnyside, Hermiston, Walla Walla and Wenatchee.
The new Pasco store is by far the largest, Fisher said. Goodwill is using approximately 34,000 square feet of the building. The retail floor takes up nearly 14,000 square feet compared to the downtown store's 10,500 square feet.
The rest of the space will be used for a drive-in drop-off area for donations, processing, training and administration.
There will also be an on-site job placement center to help people find jobs once they've gone through Goodwill's training program.
Goodwill Industries of the Columbia employs almost 450 people in all its stores. Employees accept donations at the dock, sort, price and tag items and work on the retail floor or as cashiers, depending on their training and abilities.
"We have a whole group of folks in program services who work with people with disabilities and assess what their training needs are, what they need in order to grow and develop," Comfort said.
One service Goodwill has added at the new location is hiring two people to help veterans receive the benefits they're entitled to.
"They know the systems and, with their help, veterans can submit a complete file to help eliminate delays and save them a lot of time," he said.
Goodwill also will house its e-commerce staff and equipment at the new store.
"Many people don't know it, but Goodwill sells a lot of books, clothing and collectibles online," Comfort said of the website, www.shopgoodwill.com.
With the expansion, the Pasco Goodwill store has already added four to five additional employees. And, depending on donations, may hire more people with disabilities or other barriers to employment, he said.
Comfort told the Pasco City Council in July that there are long-term plans to add second stores in Richland and Kennewick.
The store on Columbia Street is closed, but plans are in the works to turn it into a Goodwill outlet store where items are sold by the pound.
There are only a few such Goodwill outlets in the state -- Seattle has two, Spokane one.
Fisher explained that items not sold in a certain time period at the retail stores would be taken to the Columbia Street location and piled into big bins or rolling tables.
"Clothes, coffee pots, shoes -- they all go in together, and the bins are wheeled out one or two at a time. People pull out what they want, fill up their carts and then pay a set amount per pound for everything," Fisher said.
The bins are changed out about every hour.
This unusual way of selling, she said, "creates a lot of excitement among the shoppers. Some people bring their lunch and stay all day."
The outlet store likely will open sometime in 2014.
The new store on Court Street will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays. Grand opening festivities continue through Sunday. Phone: 547-7717; www.goodwillotc.org.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; email@example.com