Huddling against freezing temperatures, a quarter until ribbon-cutting time and about two dozen people waited outside the locked doors of the Madison Goodwill.
The previously near-vacant parking lot was packed, as were the aisles in the store.
Young and old shoppers alike made opening day an exciting event.
Within an hour of the opening the checkout line wrapped around from the checkout registers to the back of the store.
Men and women in professional attire assisted shoppers and looked on as the store opened for business.
Elaine Armstrong, Director of Public Relations for Goodwill of North Georgia, said they had Goodwill managers from other stores as well as members of the administration present for the opening.
This is their 43rd store. Of those 43 Goodwill stores in North Georgia, every store has a donation collection point and fewer than 10 have career centers. Four career centers are located within 50 miles of Madison: two in Athens, one each in Duluth, Oakwood, and Decatur.
Armstrong explained that career center locations are determined by community need, space, and funding. Armstrong said it takes about five stores to fund a career center.
The classroom concept, which is what they have at the Madison store, offers job training services.
She encouraged those interested in a career begin with the Goodwill Career Center in Athens.
To make opening day possible they first had to have a successful donation center, which they opened about a year ago.
“This worked out perfectly for us,” she said.
She noted that they created between 20 and 25 jobs that did not previously exist.
Not only did the store prompt economic development, it also redeveloped a vacant building.
According to George Staska, Senior Director of Regional Development for Goodwill of North Georgia, said the old building was “in pretty bad shape.”
They went in and finished it out so shoppers may enjoy a clean, well-lit and organized environment.
When asked if the number of shoppers on opening day was normal, he looked at the crowd.
“This is normal,” he said. He looked again and smiled, “It might be more than normal.”
He pointed out that every purchase at a Goodwill store benefits their mission, which is to put people to work.
Staska said that Goodwill is glad to be here.
“To see the community reception is pretty cool,” he said. “It’s exciting because you never know what you’re going to see.”
Behind the scenes they have several sorting stations. Staska explained that the stations are the same from store to store.
He added that they are International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certified for both quality and environmental standards. The environmental certification indicates that they work to reduce the amount of waste they put into the local waste stream.
Store Manager Andrew Wilder said this is the fourth store he has managed. The others were in Buford, Canton, and Covington.
At about 9,000 square feet, he said this store has a smaller footprint than the others, which he said is due to the more rural area.
It still offers the same eight departments, though. Items for sale range from shoes and clothes, to furniture and electronics, from housewares to sporting goods.
They employ 29 people, of whom 25 or 26 are from Morgan County, he said.
He assisted one lady with a furniture selection and directed a couple of employees along the way, all while answering questions.
“Opening day, each one is different,” he said. “This one’s dynamic.”
Printed in the February 7, 2013 edition.