Morris Habitat for Humanity Restore is The Store That Builds Homes.
Through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials, Morris Habitat for Humanity builds and rehabilitates houses in partnership with families in need. Habitat houses are affordable because there is no profit included in the sale price and no interest is charged on the mortgage. The family’s monthly mortgage payments go into a revolving fund which is used to build more houses.
In the next four years, Morris Habitat plans on serving over 200 families through new and rehab homebuilding, home preservation and international homebuilding programs. Volunteer visits will total over 45,000, and our Restore activity will keep another 3000 tons of reusable items out of landfills while providing funding to support our overhead. As advocacy increases, so will the evolution of families becoming homeowners, transforming communities and the economy in an upward direction.
Morris Habitat for Humanity is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International.
The ReStore is a good deal for you, your community and the environment! It creates a steady source of income for Morris Habitat by selling new and salvaged building materials and home furnishings donated by individuals and businesses. It promotes sustainability by diverting hundreds of tons of materials from the waste stream each year.
The first ReStore opened in April 1991 in Winnipeg, Canada, followed by the first U.S. store in Austin, Texas. In 1994, Kathy Hourihan, a recycling coordinator for the Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority, first brought the idea of a ReStore to the Morris Habitat board. A visit to the ReStore in Tampa, Florida, convinced her to promote the concept here, and finally our first warehouse opened on May 12, 2007, in Mine Hill.
Kathy continued her volunteer work as a board member, chair of the publicity team, Bike & Hike planner and kitchen cabinet pricer for the ReStore. Her employer gave the ReStore its MCMUA Recycling Award in 2007 for “restoring faith in reuse” and in 2014 for “restoring our habitat.” Still growing after 10 years, the store’s success can be attributed to people looking for a bargain and to a greater interest in reuse and recycling.
The Morris Habitat board of directors was doing serious research into the feasibility of a ReStore by 2004. Their guiding force was Don Kuhn, president of the board during the crucial start-up period. He wrote the business plan and many policies for store operations. You may recognize him today from his continuing volunteer work as a pricer of fine art donations and as a constant helper on the sales floor.
Another board member at the time, Bill Keefe, drafted the financial projections for the business plan. Gordon Lorig joined the board in 2006 and worked with volunteer property acquisition sleuths and a commercial realtor to search for properties to rent.
Even though Bill Keefe predicted that we might lose money for as long as three years before the ReStore would start to show a profit, the board voted unanimously to move ahead. After the store opened in 2007, Don Kuhn continued his leadership as the first chair of the ReStore Advisory Team, and board liaison Beth Everett monitored store operations. With this close oversight from the board, the ReStore became profitable in only eleven months, and is still growing after 10 years.
The husband and wife team of Mark Bippes and Lise Greene guided the ReStore Steering Committee members as they prepared detailed financial and business plans. Mark led the work of the committee for several months as its first chair until he left in 2005 to supervise our Baker Street construction project in Dover. Lise secured the help of her colleague Mark Allyn at Montclair State University to produce a business plan. Students in his entrepreneurial management class conducted surveys and market analysis studies, while committee members visited the four existing ReStores in New Jersey as part of their research.
Volunteer property sleuth Jane Dwyer worked with Steve Sander of Weichert Commercial Brokerage to find a large amount of warehouse space in a flex-park zoned for both light industrial use and retail sales. This combination is uncommon in Morris County, but Steve suggested the Iron Mountain Industrial Park in Mine Hill. The location met our needs of around 20,000 square feet at a reasonable rental rate with easy access for trucks from Route 46 plus ample parking for the public, volunteers and staff.
Morris Habitat had outgrown its small office space in the Woman’s Club of Morristown. The new location in Mine Hill allowed us to combine all operations under one roof along with the new retail store. We gained a larger office area plus storage for construction materials and tools used for our home-building projects. Since we leased only part of the warehouse, Mark Bippes and his helpers prepared the space by constructing a 28-foot-tall dividing wall. Our move was assisted by the mayor and council of Mine Hill, zoning officer Al Thompson, and landlord John Crimi, president of County Concrete Corporation. Nancie Ludwig led the Newcomers’ and Neighbors’ Club of Randolph in planning and hosting a marvelous grand opening event for the ReStore on May 12, 2007. We were very thankful that ShopRite of Parsippany donated all of the refreshments served that day, and they even delivered them.
The new store did have some drawbacks: fairly chilly in winter and too hot in summer, warehouse lighting rather than traditional retail brightness, and a location in the middle of an industrial complex off Route 46 that challenged customers to find the store. In spite of all that, the ReStore formula worked! With initial advertising and word-of-mouth, the store quickly became a mecca for bargain hunters.
A few years later, we opened a doorway in the dividing wall and expanded into the whole warehouse. Artist Patricia McWhorter of Oak Ridge beautified the walls behind the cashier station with a huge mural of trees seen through the frame of a house under construction. The painting included a whimsical white cat, a squirrel and birds to welcome shoppers. In the years that the ReStore was in Mine Hill, much was learned about running the business. It was an incubator for the current store location in Randolph on Route 10.