Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Goodwill to shutter Ely store and donation center

Some Ely residents urging city officials and customers to advocate for the facility

Keith Vandervort
Posted 1/10/19

ELY— The Goodwill store in Ely is slated to close permanently on Saturday, Jan. 19. The news of the closure of the store and the related donation center, located at 40 N 2nd Ave. East came as a …

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Goodwill to shutter Ely store and donation center

Some Ely residents urging city officials and customers to advocate for the facility

Posted

ELY— The Goodwill store in Ely is slated to close permanently on Saturday, Jan. 19. The news of the closure of the store and the related donation center, located at 40 N 2nd Ave. East came as a blow to Ely area residents who used the store to access affordable clothing and household items.

“I am shocked and disappointed,” said Frana Cherico, a regular customer of the store. “The store has a cadre of loyal customers who have appreciated having affordable, quality clothing options here at the end of the road.”

The announcement comes less than two weeks after another Goodwill store closed in Cloquet, all part of a cost-cutting effort according to Scott Vezina, a communications manager for Goodwill Industries in Duluth. “A lot goes into this kind of decision, including donations, revenue and long-term planning,” he said when reached by telephone on Friday.

President and CEO, Marcy Vogt, said Goodwill’s board of directors has concluded that the decision “is a necessary step in becoming a more efficient organization.”

Some in Ely aren’t content to simply accept the decision. Three Ely residents, Pat Bieber, Marlene Benson and Arlene Hanson, wrote an email to Ely Economic Development Authority President Heidi Omerza and implored the governmental body to do all they can to keep the store open. “It is a wonderful asset to the people here. It is one of the busiest stores in town. It fills a need that will be unmet with its closure,” Bieber wrote. “People come from the surrounding communities to shop there.”

Members of EEDA discussed the planned closure at a meeting on Tuesday, but weren’t sure what the authority could do about it. “I don’t know what we can do other than contact (them),” said Omerza. “You never like to see businesses leave Ely, obviously.”

Mayor Chuck Novak said the closure was based on a business decision by the organization. “How is it that they get everything donated for free and are a for-profit (business) and can’t make it?” he asked. “That is their business model. We can’t strong-arm them. It is a private enterprise and they can make their own decisions. We are aware of this and are concerned about it.”

Approximately six employees will be impacted by the store’s closure and Goodwill officials indicate they are working to identify how to support everyone’s transition needs. “Our top priority is the people we employ and serve and we will make every effort to ensure as easy a transition as possible. We will continue to fulfill our mission of providing employment and employment services to people with disabilities or other barriers, while taking the necessary steps to make our organization stronger,” Vogt said.

“We would like to sincerely thank the local community for their support of the Ely store over the past five years, and invite them to shop and donate at any of our other 13 retail stores and donation centers in the Northland,” Vogt continued. “Although there are no immediate plans to open another Goodwill store in the Ely area, Goodwill will continue to explore the possibility of this in the future” she said.

The Ely store will hold a 50-percent-off storewide sale through Jan. 19. Donations will also be accepted through that date, according to Vezina.

Goodwill Industries serves 13 cities and 29 counties throughout the greater Minnesota and Wisconsin area. Goodwill’s retail store in Virginia is the next closest location to Ely.

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