SPRING HILL — Shoppers gleefully gobbled up bargains Saturday at the grand opening of the area's first Goodwill Industries-Suncoast Superstore at 4750 Commercial Way.
Buyers exited with bags stuffed and some shopping carts filled to the brim. And some came from afar.
Joy Ligen of Niceville, in the Florida Panhandle, was excited over her purchases of two stenciled wall plaques, a magnifying cosmetic mirror and a kitchen mixing bowl. All were new, not used, for which she dug out a total of $13.56.
Ligen's mother, whom she was visiting in Spring Hill, said in a soft-voiced admission that her buys were nearly too good to be true. Joann Caldwell, 79, garnered "four beautiful blouses, really nice quality," for $4 each. She showed off a bag full of dog toys, too.
The women said they had shopped Goodwill thrift stores previously, and Ligen is a regular donor of goods to the nonprofit agency.
"This store," said Ligen, 53, "it's beautiful."
It is 25,000 square feet with a glass atriumlike entryway, lots of cart maneuvering space between racks, five checkout lanes, clothing organized with readily identifiable size cards, and overhead directional signs pointing to various departments.
Debra Harris and two friends drove up from Safety Harbor especially for the store's grand opening. Harris, 52, bought a man's suit, trousers, shirts, shorts, plus two purses and a pair of earrings.
"Good buys," she said. She's shopped Goodwill stores before, "but not like this one," she said with approval.
From Orlando came 10-year-old Marcus Kennedy, visiting his grandmother here. He eyed some handheld techy gadgets in the home entertainment department. "Just looking," he said with a hopeful grin.
"This is fascinating," remarked James Caputo of Spring Hill as he searched through knickknacks for a model chihuahua. "It's really upscale."
He held a 10-power magnifying mirror with a price tag of $1.59. "It's great for trimming my mustache," said the 72-year-old, who noted that he'd seen the same item elsewhere for $15.
Caputo's wife, Camille, pulled up with a cart.
"We're thrift store junkies," she said. Having reared four children, the couple needed to be, Camille Caputo explained.
Examining men's leisure shorts on a hanging rack, Brian Leger of Weeki Wachee said, "You can't compare this to the other store," referring to the previous, smaller Goodwill outlet a few blocks north. "This is like a regular store."
It was the second shopping outing for Leger, 48, who took advantage of the store's soft opening on the previous Sunday. He had bought a Tommy Bahama shirt, $75 new, for $6.
"I'd never pay $75 for a shirt," he said. "When it comes down to it, it's just a shirt."
Joann Morgeson, also of Weeki Wachee, indulged her love of daisies, buying a table lamp painted with the flowers and a set of matching table place mats. She added paperback books and framed artwork. Morgeson, 65, has shopped regularly at Goodwill since moving to Hernando County eight years ago. Of the new store, she said, "Wow, it's fabulous."
Michael Ann Harvey, vice president of marketing for Goodwilll Industries-Suncoast, said the Spring Hill store is the first of the agency's planned $21-million retail expansion of four superstores in the Tampa Bay area, others to come in St. Petersburg, Oldsmar and New Tampa.
"We have to compete with larger, high-profile stores," Harvey said. "Most people today want spacious and attractive shopping areas."
"The superstore model, contrasted with our smaller, less efficient stores, enables Goodwill to compete effectively with other retailers in a very competitive economy," chief operating officer Debbie Passerini added.
Said Harvey: "Retail revenues help support the agency's many human service programs, which provided services to more than 77,000 people in 10 counties last year."
At the new store, offices and a lounge have been added to provide vocational assessments and career skills training for adults, plus a nook for Goodwill's BookWorks program, a literacy effort to make new books available free for needy children.
While these endeavors have been substantially relocated to the store next to Lowe's, Harvey announced that the Goodwill store at 1260 S Broad St. in Brooksville, scheduled previously to close, will remain open for another year.
"Brooksville store sales have increased remarkably, and customer loyalty, public commentary asking us to stay open" resulted in the change of plans, Harvey said.
While the thrift stores remain the most visible of Goodwill's efforts, Harvey pointed out, "Goodwill Industries-Suncoast … is currently the top-ranked Goodwill in North America for the number of people placed in jobs each year. Goodwill Industries is consistently ranked among the nonprofits most deserving of support based on the high percentage of revenue funneled to its programs."
Back to the new thrift store, Passerini, who has worked with the agency for 31 years, said, "It all starts with donations. Without donations we wouldn't have a store to support our social services."
Beyond the sorting, inspection, cleaning and pricing area at the new store, Passerini pointed out a convenient dropoff bay for donations.
Beth Gray can be reached at [email protected]