Goodwill Industries (of Tenneva) currently has 14 stores and covers 17 counties in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. It employs approximately 225 people and has yearly sales of $5.5 million.
Morris Baker, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Tenneva, sat down with the Times News last week to discuss the upcoming property purchase, the plans moving forward and what Goodwill hopes to accomplish with the additional space.
A BIT OF HISTORY
Traders Village is an indoor flea market located on Stone Drive just past the Kingsport Pavilion. It was built more than 30 years ago and includes 63,000 square feet of indoor space among three large buildings, aptly named A, B and C.
Local developer Stewart Taylor once owned the 20-acre site, but today the owner is Dean Trent (of Carter Trent Funeral Home).
In its heyday, all three buildings at Traders Village were full of vendors, offering a variety of items for sale. You’d find dealers specializing in furniture, home décor, jewelry, toys, video games, movies, NASCAR and sports memorabilia, pets and linens.
However, in recent years, the number of vendors slowly dwindled to the point where all of them were consolidated into Building B. A discount product store went into Building A, while Building C remained empty.
Goodwill has offered to purchase Traders Village for $1.9 million with plans to invest another $1 million in facade upgrades, interior work and renovations. According to Baker, here’s what Goodwill plans to do:
— Enclose Buildings B and C to house Goodwill’s processing center, currently located on Brookside Drive.
— Establish a 15th retail store and an outlet store in that space as well. Goodwill outlet stores sell items that won’t sell in the retail stores, and the nonprofit sells the items by the pound. This will be the first outlet store for Goodwill Industries of Tenneva.
— Eventually relocate Goodwill’s corporate office from Brookside Lane to the property. A date for that move has not been set.
— Create additional space in Building A and B to lease to third-party businesses. Baker said Goodwill is currently in negotiations with possible tenants.
— Explore the idea of keeping the wooden tables in the front parking lot open for folks to come and sell.
“We’ll probably keep (the tables) outside the rest of the year, and my hope is to put a building out there, like the Kingsport Farmers Market, to continue the synergy with Traders Village,” Baker said.
REASONS BEHIND THE PURCHASE
When Baker came on board in January of 2017, space was a major issue at Goodwill. The nonprofit simply didn’t have enough and was leasing space in order to store donations. So Baker began looking at property to better suit Goodwill’s needs.
That’s when Traders Village came into play. The idea was for Goodwill to relocate its processing center and corporate office to that site. However, a consultant was brought in to look at Goodwill’s operations, and it was determined the nonprofit didn’t need as much space as it thought.
Nevertheless, moving to Traders Village seemed like a good idea. Why spend $8,000 a month leasing a processing center when you can use that money on a mortgage and own the property?
“Then we’d have equity for the organization and it’s a high traffic area for Goodwill,” Baker said. “It’s got easy access to Interstate 81, better visibility and a high growth area for the next 10 to 20 years.”
Goodwill plans to do a master plan for the Traders Village property and hopes to start construction by the end of May. Items could be moved in as early as August, and the center could be up and running by the end of the year.
“From the board’s perspective, we’ll end up cutting expenses overall. It’ll open up new revenue streams and consolidate some operations,” said Joe Harvey, past chair of Goodwill. “Our mission is to provide employment for people with barriers to employment. This will better enable us to do that and grow in the future.”