I found a great pair of never-worn heels at the Goodwill Superstore in Wesley Chapel. My favorite Nine West boots, too. And the last two dresses I wore to charity auctions came from that marvelous thrift emporium, which left enough money in my purse to bid the night away, guilt-free.
The Wesley Chapel store on State Road 56, just east of Interstate 75, packs a huge selection of castoffs from the closets of the nearby affluent neighborhoods. It's a brand-name bargain-hunter's paradise.
So I was thrilled when I saw construction begin on a Goodwill Superstore in west Pasco, closer to where I live. The new store on State Road 54, between Duck Slough and Trinity boulevards, will surely draw some high-end donations, too.
Then I learned the opening of the new store in Trinity, likely in June, will mean the closing of Goodwill's longtime thrift shop in Port Richey.
In recent years, Pier 1, Buffalo Wild Wings and even Target have shuttered their Port Richey locations while keeping their doors open in Trinity. I was disappointed then but not surprised. The money isn't here.
But doesn't that make it the kind of place that really needs a good thrift store?
Census data confirms what you probably suspected about the two areas.
The median household income in Trinity is $86,593.
In Port Richey, it's $34,063.
About 2.6 percent of the people in Trinity have lived below the poverty level at some point over the past 12 months.
In Port Richey, it's more than 23 percent.
So why would Goodwill build its new thrift store in an upscale area, then close the one in the lower income area?
"That's kind of our business model," explained Jennifer Fleming Lugo, a spokeswoman for Goodwill Industries — Suncoast. "We we have a store in middle-income areas or high demographic areas, it brings us better donations. Better donations bring better sales, which means more programs we can fund."
All of which made sense as I thought about my prize finds at the upscale Wesley Chapel superstore.
At 26,000 square feet, the Trinity superstore will be more than twice the size of the Port Richey Goodwill at U.S. 19 and Jasmine Boulevard. The Trinity store will have the same setup as the Wesley Chapel location. And if it does as well, it could do a lot of good for west Pasco.
Last year, the Wesley Chapel superstore did $3.1 million in sales, compared to $925,818 at the Port Richey store. That's no surprise when you consider the Wesley Chapel store logged 31,909 batches of donations, compared to 9,198 in Port Richey.
Naturally the higher volume of goods means a greater selection for shoppers — and a greater need for people to sort the items and stock the shelves. The 17 employees at the Port Richey store will be offered jobs at the Trinity store, and another 30 positions will be added when the larger location opens, Lugo said.
At its stores, and through other programs, Goodwill provides short- and long-term employment services to people with disabilities, and is the lead provider of employment services at Career Central One-Stop center.
I'm an occasional donor to the Port Richey store, so donating to the Trinity location would mean a longer drive. "It's about 10 miles away," said Lugo, adding that the drive-through drop-off lane at the Trinity site is already accepting donations.
There are numerous other thrift stores in the Port Richey area, including the Salvation Army on Ridge Road, the HPH Thrift Shoppe on Massachusetts Avenue and plenty of church-run and other charitable outfits. Cost-conscious shoppers in Port Richey have some good options.
But Lugo is hopeful the Goodwill store's existing customers will make the trek, and that new ones from the Trinity area will find themselves perusing the racks when the superstore opens its doors this summer.
"I think there's a lot of middle-income people who could pay more but choose not to," Lugo said. "There's the same thrill of the hunt and getting a bargain."