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STURTEVANT — Nancy McCarthy waited in rush-hour traffic for 40 minutes to get to the grand opening of the first Goodwill outlet in the region.

McCarthy, a resident of Grayslake, Ill., ventured to the outlet at 1630 Enterprise Drive because she is a self-proclaimed “Goodwill fanatic.”

“It was a standstill getting out here; literally no cars were moving on the freeway,” McCarthy said. “But it’s all worth the wait because Goodwill is one of my favorite stores.”

The 60-year-old said she heard about the opening of the store through social media and other friends who frequent Goodwill stores in the area.

“I’m a Goodwill rewards member so I get emails on all the latest things happening with the stores,” she said. “This is a lot of fun for me; I spend anywhere from 1 to 2 hours at the store when I come here.”

How is the outlet different?

Goodwill retail stores are where donated items start out. Once they exceed their time limit in a store without being bought, they are shipped to a Goodwill outlet where customers have a final chance to purchase the item before it is recycled or sold as salvage.

The outlet also is considerably larger than a retail store. According to Cheryl Lightholder, manager of communications at Goodwill, the outlet has 120 rolling tables or bins on the floor at one time. Every 20 to 30 minutes, crews pull 8 to 12 tables with older merchandise from the floor and add the same number of tables with new goods.

Merchandise is also priced differently at the outlet. Most items are priced per pound, including home goods, clothing, textiles, shoes, purses, electronics and glassware. Goods exceeding 25 lbs. cost $1.29 per pound, while items under the 25 lb. threshold go for $2.19. Electronics and glassware are priced at $0.69 per pound. Oversized items such as furniture and bikes are priced individually.

No donations are accepted at the outlet.

“This is a tremendous bargain for shoppers,” said Ronald Tatum, Goodwill’s director of supply chain. “We’re incredibly proud of this location opening up, and, more importantly, that it brought 27 jobs to Racine.”

Goodwill’s mission

Both Lightholder and Tatum preached Goodwill’s mission statement during opening day: “Goodwill provides training, employment and supportive services for people with disabilities or disadvantages who seek greater independence.”

“We are always looking to create more opportunities for employment for those who need it most,” Tatum said. “Opening this outlet supports our mission wholeheartedly.”

According to Lightholder, more than 26,000 people have benefited from Goodwill’s workforce connection centers across the United States.

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Outlet manager Dominic Jaehnke, 32, said opening this location made logistical sense for the company.

“We do market analytics to see where the best place we could create another store,” he said. “Racine has one of the highest unemployment rates in Wisconsin, so it made sense for us to open up here; we wanted to create an opportunity for more jobs.”

Customer experience

Hundreds of customers lined outside the doors of the Goodwill Outlet at 10 a.m., waiting for the grand opening to commence.

One of those customers was Mark Schoener, 48, of Fond du Lac.

“I’ve been shopping at Goodwill for 10 to 15 years now,” Schoener said. “You just find things that you can’t find at any normal retail store; that’s why I love it so much.”

Another shopper, Mary Gram, said she was simply curious about the new store and wanted to give it a look.

“I was a little bit confused by the pricing system at this outlet, but the location of the store is great,” said Gram, 66. “I think the way the pricing works, you can either get a really good deal, or you might leave with your wallet hurting.”

Goodwill coming together

Tatum was thrilled with the support the outlet received from other Goodwill locations across southeast Wisconsin.

“All the Goodwills have come together to support us today,” he said. “The volunteers have been a tremendous help and we couldn’t have done this without them.”

Lightholder, Jaehnke and Tatum all said the customer turnout exceeded their expectations.

“We had over 100 people waiting in line before doors even opened,” Tatum said. “It’s been an awesome day for customers and an amazing day for the Goodwill family.”

The store is open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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