MANATEE -- Bradenton artist Elizabeth Hartung walked into Habitat For Humanity’s newest ReStore on Cortez Road Monday and was struck, as artists sometimes are, by a small detail.
Someone had opened the drawers on dressers for sale near the front of the store and carefully filled them with brand new handbags that had been donated by a St. Armand’s Circle merchant. Some of the bags were actually “draped” artistically over the drawers.
“It was very touching,” Hartung said.
Touching is not usually a word you hear to describe a not-for profit second-hand goods shop selling furniture, books, art, glassware, electronics, clothes, and shoes.
But Manatee County’s second Restore, which held its grand opening Monday, has a special feel to it, customers said.
The store, which was once a Shapes fitness studio at 4105 Cortez Road, is light, bright and airy with donated sofas, chairs, tables, rugs and collectibles arranged in small living room settings.
The new store opened at 9 a.m. and soon the aroma of hot dogs and hamburgers donated by Publix being grilled outside waffled through the store and drew people to the grand opening.
By 11:30 a.m., more than 100 had come in and many spent money on everything from furniture to knickknacks.
“Beautiful furniture,” said Bradenton’s Lydia Carpenter, who, aided by her husband, Norman, nabbed a 99 cent oval glass picture frame and a 99 cent artificial ivy plant.
Braden Castle residents Clay and Patricia Landes loved the decor and the layout.
“They did a great job,” Patricia Landes said. “It’s really quite nice. It’s very clean and everything is displayed well.”
“I’m impressed with the quality of the merchandise,” said Claudia Hartung of Parrish, Elizabeth’s mom. “Frequently, stores like this carry old used stuff. When we walked in, some ladies had just bought two pineapple lamps. You come in and think to yourself, ‘These are things people bought all over the world and chose to donate here.’”
Part of the magic of the store, which joins roughly 700 nationwide whose mission is to generate funds to build houses in local communities, is that it is embraced by a cadre of volunteers who poured their hearts into its rehab, said Larry Stephens, general manager for ReStores in Manatee County.
“It’s amazing to see the transformation,” said Habitat for Humanity volunteer Maggie Zeiner. “It was an empty space with lots of dust and not a nice floor. The volunteers started at the end of March and a core group worked five days a week to get it open today.”
In the end, 68 volunteers spent more than 1,500 hours to rehab the space, Stephens said.
Customers can expect a clean, roomy store filled with items that people have donated and can be bought for 50 to 80 percent off retail, Stephens said.
A solid wood end table with deep drawers went for $49 Monday. A piece of framed artwork was priced at $19.95.
“This is a boutique with Habitat pricing,” said Lee Pflueger, Habitat’s income development and marketing manager.
The difference between the Cortez store and its sister store at 1227 Hardin Ave. in Tallevast is that the one in Tallevast takes building supplies, Stephens said.
There 102 Habitat homes now in Manatee, the most recent being built in Hope Landing, across from Blackburn Elementary School in Ellenton.
“Every penny stays here to build houses in Manatee County,” Stephens said.
Donations are especially sought right now, Stephens said.
“We need goods to fill the shelves,” he said.
Items can be donated by calling (941) 355-7082. Anything can be donated with the exception of chemicals and mirrors without frames.
The store’s hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and closed Sunday.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.