Retail fundraising operation builds success in Martin City.
Food and fun make Martin City a popular destination, but did you know there’s an emerging retail magnet attracting thousands to our neighborhood every week? After only one year in business, Habitat ReStore has already raked in a million dollars in revenue. And as word gets out, Martin City’s Habitat ReStore location is expecting their initial success to grow.
What’s Habitat Restore?
Simply put, Habitat Kansas City ReStore is a powerful fundraising idea. It’s a retail business that raises money for Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City. ReStore offers excess building materials and home furnishings to anyone wanting to buy them at surprisingly low prices. Donors drop off the items, ReStore prepares the items for sale and then shoppers make purchases that fund Habitat affordable housing programs.
“It’s a big win for everyone involved,” says ReStore Vice President David Krumbholz. “There really is no downside and the opportunities are truly valuable.”
“Sometimes people think donated items are just forwarded to Habitat houses, but we want to emphasize that’s not how ReStore works,” explains ReStore Marketing Manager Carrie Wilson. “Donations are sold as retail merchandise to raise money for Habitat’s work, and anyone can shop here. We are open to the public! There are no memberships or anything like that.”
Individuals and families make up the steadiest stream of donations to Habitat ReStore. They drop off everything from furniture they no longer need to remodeling project leftovers. Donors typically receive a tax benefit too. Donations from businesses are an expanding market and are usually bigger — much bigger.
“The word is really getting out in the business community,” says Krumbholz. “Our partnerships are growing and we’re now seeing massive donations from construction projects and corporate endeavors. When businesses are exposed to what we do, they immediately ‘get it’ and want to help. Keep in mind that many of these donations would otherwise just go into the trash.”
After donations are delivered to ReStore, staff members clean, organize and prepare them for sale on the ReStore floor. That’s where customers browse like they’re strolling through a big box home improvement store, minus the big box prices.
“ReStore prices are deeply discounted,” says Krumbholz. “We are the low price leader, pure and simple. You can’t beat it. We just don’t have the expenses to cover that retail chains do.”
Customers show up at ReStore to window shop, search for particular items, knock out holiday gift lists or gather up supplies for a remodeling project. Wilson says she sees a diverse mix of bargain-hunters.
“We are an especially valuable resource for anyone who manages or maintains a property. You’ll see all kinds of landlords and property flippers in our stores. They know our prices are as good as it gets.”
“Sales cover ReStore’s operating expenses and payroll. The rest goes to funding Habitat houses,” says Krumbholz. “So there’s a feel-good benefit too. Whether you’re donating or buying, you’re making a difference in the community where it’s badly needed.”
Did you know? An estimated 13,000 people in the Kansas City area are in need of affordable housing. That means they are paying more than 30% of their income on a place to live. Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City helps bridge the gap. The organization has put more than 700 affordable homes on the map over the past 40 years.
“It’s important to understand that Habitat does not give anything away. There are no ‘free’ homes,” explains Krumbholz. “Habitat constructs homes and empowers people in need to find a financial path to ownership. That can mean anything from a zero interest loan to financial counseling that boosts conventional mortgage eligibility. We’re about providing a hand up, not a handout. Donors really feel good about the fact that both our ReStore operation and Habitat homeowners are self-sufficient.”
The Martin City Flagship.
Martin City’s ReStore is designed for the future. It symbolizes a move toward bigger ReStores in smart locations and a general streamlining of the entire ReStore operation for more efficiency and impact. Part of the reason Krumbholz joined the organization a couple of years ago was to help give ReStore a more strategic focus.
“I looked at market research with an eye for creating large ReStore locations in all the right places for long-term growth,” says Krumbholz. “Martin City is perfect. I’ve always wanted to locate here because the surrounding communities are growing and can really contribute to our effort. Our Martin City customers also benefit because Missouri does not require us to charge sales tax.”
“Martin City’s prime location in this part of the Greater Kansas City area is key,” says Wilson. “The closer we are to the donations, the better, and the people of South Kansas City have proven they are generous and ready to help. This location is also easily accessible to a number of donor businesses.”
Martin City’s ReStore is huge with roughly 45,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor inventory space. The building features a loading dock, which is a big step forward for donation processing. It allows trucks to back right up to the building for a quick drop off.
Take a tour and you’ll see a retail environment that echoes other home improvement stores, complete with towering aisles full of hardware and directional signs overhead. You’ll likely be impressed by how organized and accessible everything seems to be from furniture, lights, paint, plumbing and cabinets all the way to the bricks and garden stones in the vast outdoor area in the back.
Martin City’s ReStore also features the rollout of bold new branding to better package the experience. Habitat blue, empowerment messages and glossy photos of the nonprofit’s beneficiaries decorate the space and pay respect to supporters.
The building has come a long way since it was transformed from a manufacturing facility. About a dozen AmeriCorps volunteers put in a heroic effort cleaning out industrial grime and odors so that ReStore could move in.
“They worked hard, I mean really hard for about three months,” says Wilson. “You wouldn’t believe how much has changed thanks to those AmeriCorp volunteers.”
The local chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) deserves a lot of credit too. NARI members remodeled the entire facility for ReStore’s use, making room for offices and a break area too. And NARI is just getting started. The organization is now developing an apprentice program within Martin City’s ReStore building that will help equip the trade specialists of tomorrow with skills like carpentry, plumbing and welding. Students will even learn how to run their own contractor business.
“NARI is completing the picture here of a community facility,” says Krumbholz. “They’re going to work with local high schools to coordinate an alternative to traditional college. There’s such a huge shortage of trade workers. Habitat experiences that first hand. NARI is really trying to help provide Habitat and other builders with more workers who have the right skills.”
Power from the People.
ReStore has created approximately nine jobs inside its Martin City location. Most are full-time with benefits including insurance. There’s also a small army of volunteers that Wilson describes as crucial.
“Our volunteers really drive what happens here. They help us do it all; cleaning, getting products ready for sale or just improving the facility itself.”
Wilson says Martin City’s ReStore has an open invitation for volunteering, regardless of the level of interest.
“We have volunteers who come in once for a few hours or a whole day. There are others who come regularly. Businesses will bring in their employees to help. It’s just wonderful. Pitch in any way you can and you’ll be in good company.”
You’ll also be in good company if you’re simply shopping. As many as 3,000 people from all over the area pass through Martin City’s ReStore every week and almost half walk out with a purchase. Some come from rural communities far away to shop at ReStore and then explore Martin City.
“They make a day of it,” says Krumbholz. “Our customers are Martin City’s customers. Many linger after they leave to see what else is around the neighborhood.”
Krumbholz says that kind of foot traffic can present quite an opportunity for Martin City businesses looking to raise their own profiles.
“You know, Jess & Jim’s Steakhouse dropped off a stack of special offers and they were gone in no time. We put them at the front counter and I hear it translated into business for the restaurant. This is a great place for neighborhood businesses to get exposure. Just come by and talk to us!”
If the foot traffic alone isn’t impressive enough, consider that many of those customers are also leaving online reviews. Wilson says it’s not unusual to receive hundreds of comments every month, most full of praise for the service, products and purpose.
“People love being part of the Habitat mission. They really believe it makes a difference and they want to spread the word to help us succeed.”
And it’s working. Donations and traffic are both increasing at ReStore and it’s recently climbed to the top of popularity on MartinCity.org where all neighborhood businesses are listed.
“Martin City has welcomed us like family,” says ReStore Manager Tom Ryan. “We are thrilled to be part of such a vibrant and fun community. “
Of course, the biggest measure of success is that million dollars we mentioned, an impressive first-year revenue goal reached just in time!
“We set that goal and promised our employees we would celebrate at Jack Stack Barbecue if we hit it,” smiles Krumbholz. “I mean that was an ambitious goal and took hard work every single day. In fact, we literally reached the goal on the very last day of our first year in business in Martin City. What a great feeling!”
It’s a great feeling shared by a great community in the heart of America. Krumbholz believes the Kansas City area is a place like no other, especially when it comes to taking care of each other.
“It’s really amazing just how perfectly suited the community is for the Habitat effort. I mean, I’ve lived in places like Denver, Atlanta, Dallas and Houston, and nowhere have I seen businesses and individuals come together like they do in Kansas City.”
Krumbholz hopes ReStore’s success will help spark a rise in retail in Martin City that complements the already famous restaurant culture.
“Restaurants are the foundation in Martin City. Now here comes retail with ReStore and more housing is coming too. We’re getting everything we need for a thriving community.”
“Martin City is a really warm, tight-knit community,” adds Wilson. “We all believe in collective success and we know it’s only possible if we all support each other. That’s what makes our ReStore team feel right at home here.”
Thank YOU, Habitat Kansas City ReStore, for joining the Martin City community, and congratulations on a wildly successful first year! We’re proud to call you neighbors 🙂