Oak Harbor Habitat’s bigger location a hit

The Oak Harbor furniture store run by Habitat for Humanity of Island County has moved a short distance to greatly expand its size, and shoppers interviewed during a recent visit approved of the change.

“Wow!” exclaimed Micaela Deal, an Oak Harbor resident who came to shop for a dining room table and office desk. “It’s a lot bigger and easier to maneuver around.”

Added Zachary Favela, who had joined Deal on the shopping trip, “I like how it’s organized.”

Joanne Rohde, a Bellingham resident who came just to shop at the store, said the new facility is “much nicer and bigger” than the old location.

Last month’s move, to 290 S.E. Pioneer Avenue from 350 S.E. Pioneer Way, meant an expansion of nearly 50 percent, to 7,200 square feet from about 4,900 square feet, said Habitat’s Development Director Mandi Rothman.

The light, airy store was once occupied by Whidbey Furniture but has been vacant for some time, Rothman said. It gives Habitat room to offer new mattresses, which take up a lot of space, she said. It also provides far more space to array used furniture for the living room, dining room and office; framed art; and some antiques.

A second floor offers room for expansion.

The old location was so small that staff had to turn away donations and put some inventory in storage.

Moving to the new location was eased by the efforts of nearly 100 volunteers from the community and NAS Whidbey Island, Rothman said.

“It was almost overwhelming,” she said. “We didn’t anticipate that influx of support and being able to move so quickly.”

Almost before the move was completed, on Halloween day, customers were waiting to buy, she said.

Habitat has had a store in Oak Harbor since 2002. It generated sales of $2.6 million through the end of June.

More than 100 volunteers at the store put in one thousand hours a week of free labor. The not-for-profit has a second store in Freeland that also sells building materials.

Habitat hopes the new store will generate increased sales of its donated goods, meaning more money to fund the building of houses for low-income families. Because sales depend on donations, which are unpredictable, Habitat can’t predict future revenue figures, Rothman said.

“Building a house costs $110,000,” she said. “We’d certainly like it if the new store generated enough additional sales to build another house.”

Habitat typically builds four to five houses per year on Whidbey, Rothman said. Since its inception here in 1998, the organization has built homes for 44 families. Some houses have served successive families.

Habitat houses typically go to families whose income is 30-50 percent of the area’s median income. Though Habitat is a Christian organization, it follows a non-discriminatory policy of family selection, according to its literature.

Houses are built to high construction and environmental standards and are designed to fit into their neighborhoods, Habitat said. Volunteer labor is essential.

The new store’s official grand opening is Nov. 12, followed by a two-day grand-opening sale starting Nov. 14.

“I’m expecting good things from this store,” Rothman said.