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Deals Draw Droves of Shoppers to Columbia Store Opening

Sometimes, at Goodwill, the treasures are hiding in plain sight.

Maury County Commissioner Eric Previti said that was the case on July 21, when he attended the Grand Opening of Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee’s newest store in Columbia.

Gracing a table near the store’s entrance was a strikingly large aquamarine pitcher and matching bowl with lobster-shaped handles. At the table, numerous customers were registering for Grand Opening giveaways, and Previti assumed the two-foot tall pitcher was a door prize. But he asked a sales associate and was told the pitcher and bowl set was for sale.

“I immediately snatched it up and purchased it,” he said. “I thought it was fantastic and knew my wife would love it.”

Previti paid about $40 for the set and took it home, where he placed it on a picnic table in his backyard and took photos of it with his grandkids to show off its size. Later, he searched the Internet to see if he could learn anything about the pitcher and bowl. It didn’t take him long to find a match. It popped up on the website of fine ceramics maker Fortunata Inc. The same pitcher and bowl could be purchased from the website for a shade under $1,000.

“I called my wife and said, ‘Get that stuff inside before the kids knock it over,’” he explained. “I thought it was just going to be outside decor. Now, instead of sitting on a picnic table out back it’s sitting on the dining room table in my house.”

Previti had plenty of company in searching for treasure at the grand opening of the store and Donation Express Center at 405 S. James Campbell Blvd. The new store replaced one on Trotwood Avenue that Goodwill occupied for a decade. Prior to an 8 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony, the line of shoppers stretched from the front doors almost to the roadway.

Lucinda Rouse of Spring Hill and her mother, Barbara Wilson of Columbia, were near the front of the line.

“It’s her fault I got here at 5:30 (a.m.),” Rouse laughed, pointing to her mom, “‘cause she said there would be a line and we wouldn’t be able to get in.”

Rouse said her favorite things about Goodwill are the the relaxing music and the employees.

“The folks that work at Goodwill always seem happy to be doing their jobs,” she said. “If you are having a bad day, you can go into Goodwill and look around and you will feel better when you come out.”

During ribbon-cutting ceremonies hosted by the Maury County Chamber & Economic Alliance, Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee President and CEO Matthew Bourlakas said he could not take credit for the facility.

“This decision, this beautiful building was built because of all of you over there,” he said, talking to the people waiting in line, “and this city of Columbia, that has long believed in and supported Goodwill.”

Inside the store, manager Becky Kelley, a native of Columbia and a Goodwill employee for 14 years, gave a pep talk to her staff before the crowd began streaming in.

“I just want to say thank you so much for all the hard work each and every one of y’all have done. Today is going to be crazy, so just wing it,” she told the employees. “Customer service is job No. 1. Be sure to treat those customers like gold!”

Within the first few hours of the opening, more than 500 shoppers had come through the doors.

Among them were Jeff Holman of Mt. Pleasant, who was walking down a clothing aisle with Kezzia and Rue, the youngest of his 11 children.

“We’re here to check out the new store and see what kind of bargains they have,” he said. “We shop at Goodwill to save money. To be able to afford a big family like ours, it’s very important to have a store like this.”

Holman said he also appreciates Goodwill’s mission of changing lives through education, training and employment. He said he typically rounds up to the next dollar on his purchases, donating the difference to Goodwill to support its mission. He also said he planned to recommend to one of his adult children who needs a job that she visit the new Goodwill Career Solutions center in Columbia when it opens.

The new center will provide free job readiness and computer training, job fairs and other employment services for the public. Weather delays prevented the center from opening with the store, but Goodwill Career Solutions hosted an 18-employer job fair at the Maury County Library on Aug. 4. The center is expected to open soon.

Since the grand opening, Previti — the lucky purchaser of the pitcher — scored yet another treasure during a return trip to the new Columbia Goodwill store. He bought a large Broyhill entertainment center of a type that retails for up to $3,000 for just $80.

He said the secret of his success is weekly visits to Goodwill.

“If you know what you’re looking for and have an eye for that stuff, you’d be surprised what turns up,” he said.

Treasure Hunters:

Quickly filling a buggy with merchandise were Mt. Pleasant residents Diane Bodeker and her daughters, Michaela Bodeker, 12, and Grace Washington, 18. Among the items they were purchasing were a blue guitar for Michaela Bodeker and a vintage doll for her sister. “We were regulars at the Goodwill on Trotwood (Avenue). When we heard this store was opening up we had to be here this morning,” Diane Bodeker said. “We love Goodwill. We always have.”

No one would blame Christine Luckett of Columbia for resting in a chair near the center of the store during the Grand Opening frenzy. She’s got a bum knee, and she stood in line in the July morning sun for about an hour before the doors opened. Then she shopped a while, finding a pair of pants to purchase at a sale price that made her happy. “I fared just fine,” she said, “and I’m enjoying it.” Not bad for a 97-year-old. Not bad at all.

Rebecca Moore, a 73-year-old Columbia resident, bought a buggy-full of items during the Grand Opening, but she didn’t know where she would put it. “My car is already packed with the stuff I got at Goodwill last week,” she said. Moore is active with the Maury County Senior Center and often shares the items she finds on daily shopping trips to Goodwill with other visitors to the center.  Even when she goes on excursions and trips with the senior center, she can’t resist stopping at any Goodwill she sees. “Other people will be eating lunch, and I will be shopping,” she said.

Read the Summer 2016 edition of The Ambassador – Goodwill’s quarterly magazine which provides readers with stories of events, activities and the inspiring stories of how Goodwill is changing lives

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