WASILLA — The Valley’s first Goodwill thrift store opened to the public Thursday, September 2.

Goodwill Industries of Alaska hosted a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony with Wasilla Mayor Glenda Ledford and other city officials, Anchorage architect Steve Fishback, and others.

Immediately following the ceremony, shoppers were greeted with hardy applause echoing across the newly remodeled facility as they walked through the doors, officially kicking off the start of a new business and new chapter of Wasilla’s ever-growing business district.

“When I ran, my objective was to keep Wasilla open for business, and we continue on that path. So, I always say— and if you live here you know— Wasilla is the best place to live, work, and play,” Ledford said. “We wish you the best, because the more money you make, the more money we make.”

The first wave of Wasilla Goodwill customers were able to browse through a variety of clothing, housewares, and everything else one would expect to find at a Goodwill location across the country. They also had the chance to enter for the chance to win a $250 in-store gift card.

This is Alaska’s latest Goodwill store. It’s housed inside the former Johnson Tire Service building, completely remodeled to accommodate daily operations.

“This looks like a custom build. If we were starting from scratch and this was an empty ground, it would probably look really similar to this, but we were able to incorporate all the parts of the building,” Goodwill Industries of Alaska President and CEO Jim Martin said.

According to Martin, 95 percent of Goodwill’s items are sourced locally.

“Our goal here is to repurpose this material and generate some revenue. It does two things. One, it creates jobs, and two, it funds our mission programs,” Martin said. “We’re trying to operate a thrift business that looks like a regular, old retail store, and we are able to do that because we’ve hired really competent folks that are doing a great job for us.”

Goodwill is an international nonprofit that utilizes thrift store profits to provide a variety of community-oriented services such as employment and training opportunities through the Job Connections program designed for those interested in obtaining or upgrading their employment in their respective areas.

Job Connections offer job-seekers one-on-one resume assistance, interview skills coaching, and referrals to local employers based on employment goals, experience, and skills. This free program has served 2,788 individuals in Alaska, according to a recent press release from Goodwill.

“The Wasilla community has been extremely supportive, which resulted in the opening of this beautiful location. The new retail space serves as a training facility for individuals with barriers to employment and provides 45 full-time jobs with benefits,” Martin said. “We now have an opportunity here to generate work and also generate some margin to fund our programs.”

Iditarod icon, Martin Buser made a special guest appearance with two puppies in his arms, welcoming Goodwill staff and shoppers.

“I’m happy to be invited to share my puppies, a little show, and tail. It’s always nice to see a nice new business in Wasilla,” Buser said. “I’m a big re-user myself. I have many, many, many stories of re-used materials… The best story of repurposed items is probably my theater. All the chairs are repurposed first-class Alaska Railroad train seats, about 50 of them… It functions and keeps them out of the landfill. Why not re-use?”

The new Goodwill thrift store is located at 1660 East Financial Drive in downtown Wasilla, near Arby’s and the Alaska Club.

For more information, call 907-357-4401 or visit goodwill-alaska.org.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com

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