Inside the Goodwill Store on Fulton Avenue in Sacramento, Monica Villazana (vill-ah-ZAHN-ah) is bargain hunting…something she likes to do several times a month.
“My kids love it. We go all the way as far as Stockton to go thrift store shopping. You never know what you’re going to find.”
On this day, Villazana is filling her shopping cart with clothes for her daughters. All four of her girls are tagging along…and mom is letting them pick out a few Barbie dolls.
“Oh yeah, they already know when they come to the thrift store they get a toy and it’s not a lot of money out of my wallet.”
Keeping more money in her purse is a priority these days for the nursing student.
“The economy’s really tight and I’m going to school full time now. So for me, this is the best fit.”
A lot of other people are in the same boat. Mark Klingler heads operations for Goodwill Industries in Sacramento. He says demand is high for used merchandise.
“People are trying to save a dollar wherever they can. It’s tough. And when unemployment’s…what are we in Sacramento – over 12%. And the budget doesn’t look good. You know, we may lose some more jobs in the Sacramento area.”
In fact, Klingler says business is booming at all 16 Sacramento area Goodwills.
In the backroom of this store, workers are preparing new donations for the showroom. Klingler says people aren’t donating as much as they used to two-years ago…and that’s understandable in a down economy. But he says donations are still coming in...and he takes stock of their latest, eclectic array of acquisitions.
“We have an electric guitar, a stuffed animal and a wicker basket.”
Klingler says business is so good right now they’ve even been able to invest more in upgrading their stores.
“We’re a modern retail facility. Not that dirty, dingy, smelly place that people wanted to wash their hands when they walked in the building.”
Better looking stores, more customers and declining commercial real estate prices have helped Goodwill quadruple the number of local donation-only sites in the past six-years.
“We have people that can’t lease their properties that are approaching us that wouldn’t talk to us before because the image is better and the economy is down and they can’t lease their properties. And we pay our bills. So it’s good for us.”
…but not so good for the neighborhood. At least that’s what some Natomas residents thought. They were able to block Goodwill from opening another site at an empty storefront on Natomas Boulevard earlier this year…arguing that it would attract an influx of low-income clientele to the area. Klingler says that’s unfortunate.
“If the neighbors got out and looked at a store they probably would change their mind but when you have that perception for many years it’s going to take some time to change.”
Meantime, for shoppers on fixed incomes like nursing student and mother of four Monica Villazana, thrift stores have become a necessity.
“I watch my budget. And jeans at a department store would cost me like $50. And I’ve been able to get jeans here for $5. And that’s amazing.”
Goodwill plans to open four more donation sites in the Sacramento area by early next year.