By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — Carpenter’s Place is a few months away from opening a new thrift store inside a former grocery store at the corner of Rural and Prospect streets, according to the nonprofit’s top executive.
It’s now hiring for future roles at the thrift shop as it prepares for opening day.
The organization, which strives to help homeless men and women rebuild their lives, has been working on bringing the store to the former Schnucks and Hilander space at 1715 Rural St. for roughly two years.
Now Michael O’Connor, who has been executive director of Carpenter’s Place since July 1, says it is about two months away.
“We are nearing the finish line,” O’Connor said Monday in a phone interview.
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O’Connor took the helm at Carpenter’s Place after longtime leader Kay Larrick retired at the end of June. He said his time with the nonprofit has already included a lot of interest and questions about the future thrift store.
Carpenter’s Place bought the property from Schnucks for $445,000 in April 2021, according to records from the Winnebago County Clerk and Recorder’s Office. But its plans have been public since at least August 2020.
“It’s required a lot of rehab of the property to make it suitable for a thrift store, and that has taken a lot longer than I think everybody who was involved initially thought,” O’Connor said.
The nonprofit, in some respects, intentionally took its time, he said. The coronavirus pandemic spurred much-publicized supply-chain issues, increased prices and made it difficult to find contractors to handle the work.
“By slowing it down that’s allowed us to find the bargains or find a contractor who was willing to do it at a lower price if we could do it on his schedule,” O’Connor said.
Carpenter’s Place plans to operate a full-range thrift store with clothing, furnishings, housewares and other second-hand items for sale. There will also be donations accepted at the site.
But it won’t make use of the entire 33,135-square-foot space on opening day. Instead, it plans to later add more features, including a library in the former bakery area of the grocery store and a bike shop that offers both repairs and sales. The organization’s work with homeless men and women has illustrated the importance of bicycles for transportation.
Those aspects won’t be ready for opening day, but they won’t be “too far down the line,” O’Connor said.
The nonprofit is now working on hiring for the store, including roles for a store manager and assistant manager.
“It’s a pretty unique skillset for somebody to open a new thrift store … it’s a challenging undertaking, and so finding the right person for that is going to be a challenge,” O’Connor said. “Now that the property is getting close to ready, we’d love to find that person sooner than later.”
The organization’s employment readiness training for homeless men and women could help feed future jobs at the facility.
Carpenter’s Place, which is located at 1149 Railroad Ave., offers a variety of services designed to help people struggling with chronic homelessness find steady work, housing and rebuild their lives. The 501(c)3 homeless day center is supported primarily through community donations.
“We always want to convey to the public how thankful we are for all of their support,” O’Connor said. “The community is very supportive and very generous, so we’ve very thankful.”
Hiring | Carpenter’s Place thrift store
Carpenter’s Place is hiring for its upcoming thrift store at 1715 Rural St. in Rockford. Jobs include a retail manager and assistant manager.