Tuesday April 10, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- It wasn't Black Friday, but the line out the door for the reopening of the Salvation Army store on Dalton Avenue on Monday sure made it seem that way.

About 50 people streamed into The Salvation Army Family Store and Donation Center when it reopened at 9 a.m. The line stretched from the entrance to the front of the building at 501 Dalton Ave.

The bargain-friendly retail business had been closed since Feb. 24, when three Pittsfield men allegedly set four separate fires in two businesses in the building. Smoke and water damage forced the store to purge most of its inventory and close the 10,000-square-foot facility for restoration.

"It was an awful thing.

John Brown was the first customer to enter the store when it reopened on Monday morning.
John Brown was the first customer to enter the store when it reopened on Monday morning. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
You put other people out, and with the economy the way it is, you can't afford to buy at retail price," said shopper Terri Silvia of Pittsfield.

Silvia said the revamped outlet was "like a department store" now.

"I'm so excited for them," she said.

Indeed, store manager Sally Lebarron and her staff were busy on Monday, answering questions like "Where are the men's vests?" and "Could I please see that necklace from the jewelry case?"

"I'm glad they're open again, and the store looks really good," said Pittsfield resident Lucille Kline.

The main shopping area has new carpeting, ceiling tiles, insulation and paint, as well as a new display configuration. As business continues, staff will work on finishing touches to spruce up the store and they'll also re-stock some of the popular departments like children's toys and books.

Kline said she and a friend usually browse for deals at the Salvation Army store every Wednesday. But she said she couldn't wait to start shopping this week.

"I didn't really buy many things while the store was closed. They've got such good deals. I even got this top here a while back," said Kline, noting the pretty pink rose-colored sweater blouse she was wearing.

Bonnie Howland shops at the Salvation Army Family Store and Collection Center in Pittsfield as it reopened on Monday. The store had been closed since Feb.
Bonnie Howland shops at the Salvation Army Family Store and Collection Center in Pittsfield as it reopened on Monday. The store had been closed since Feb. 24 because of a fire. ( Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

As people packed their arms, shopping baskets and carts with everything from clothing to board games to kitchen goods, Major Dulce Fletcher of the Pittsfield-based Sal vation Army Corps dolled out complimentary coffee and doughnuts.

By 9:45 a.m., customer parking overflowed into the adjacent lot at Ken's Bowl and Fletcher had served more than 60 doughnuts and more than 700 ounces of coffee.

"A lot of people we've come to know and serve we've seen here this morning," said Fletcher, who ministers, along with his wife, at the Salvation Army church and community center on West Street.

The Salvation Army's location on West Street provides spiritual services and Bible study classes; daily breakfasts, Sunday meals and a food pantry; social and ministry groups for men, women and teens; and emergency assistance services.

The facility also has a gymnasium, computer lab and offers space for education and community health programs.

"The majors and the landlord here have been a great support in helping us reopen in the least amount of time possible," said Captain Patrick O'Gara, the administrator and director for The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center and Family Thrift Store in Albany, N.Y. The Pittsfield store is included among 10 stores O'Gara oversees in the Capital District region.

The revenues collected from the stores in his district go to support a nine-month assistance program at the 90-bed Salvation Army Adult Re habilitation Center, which includes spiritual counseling and other rehabilitative services. Families in need may also receive vouchers for free furniture or clothing from Salvation Army stores or its other programs.

To reach Jenn Smith:
jsmith@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6239.
On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink.