February 21, 2014 in Business

Catholic Charities opens retail furniture store

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Rena Perez, left, reflected in the mirror, and volunteer Eileen O’Donnell bubble with joy as Perez finds a vintage piece of furniture at the Furnishings for Hope nonprofit retail store at the corner of Monroe Street and Northwest Boulevard in Spokane.
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Catholic Charities Spokane’s first retail store, Furnishings for Hope, is open in one of north Spokane’s landmark structures, the historic Boulevard Building on North Monroe Street.

If what matters is location, location, location, Catholic Charities hit the trifecta, said the nonprofit’s operations manager, Jim Nicks.

The triangular building, built in 1912, sits at the busy intersection of Indiana Avenue, Monroe and Northwest Boulevard.

“It is a very good location. We’re very happy to be in there,” said Nicks, who two years ago retired as Spokane’s assistant police chief.

Opened in January, the new-and-used furniture store is Catholic Charities’ first social enterprise – a money-making retail business devoted to generating cash for the agency’s social programs.

In this case, the primary effort is to generate money to operate the furniture bank, a community service to provide basic furnishings and household items.

Last year, the furniture bank helped 623 low-income or homeless individuals and families transition into stable housing. Many of its participants are leaving shelters and moving into housing across the community, Nicks said.

The store sells furniture donated to Catholic Charities, putting a selection of the better items inside the window-lined showroom at 1905 N. Monroe St. It also sells new furniture purchased from cash donations to the furniture bank.

The Catholic Charities furniture bank is at 919 E. Trent Ave.

Until 2012, the Boulevard Building’s main level was the longtime home of Stewart’s Hardware. Stewart’s was the third and last hardware store in the building, having taken over from a previous owner in the late 1940s, said Daren Kelly, whose mother Diane Kelly is the building’s owner.

Nicks said Catholic Charities wanted to find a retail business that didn’t compete directly with other nonprofits. “We found that most were operating thrift stores, but no one else focused just on furniture. So we felt that was a good niche for us,” he said.

About a year ago, Nicks was driving around town looking at commercial spaces and found himself across the street from the Boulevard Building, vacant at the time. He got Kelly’s number off a card on the door.

They arranged a lease about six months ago. Nicks hired Inga Weber as the store manager, who coordinates volunteers and store operations.

The store is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“My mother is totally happy with their moving in,” Daren Kelly said. “We had a lot of interest, and we wanted to make sure we found a good partner,” he said.

The upper two floors of the brick building have 10 apartments, which are also going through upgrades and renovation, Kelly said.

His mother spent roughly $80,000 on improvements to the main floor before Catholic Charities moved in.


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