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Area thrift store is looking new and improved
Christian mission revamps old Potters House to make location more inviting
The Potter's House on Oak Street has been renovated and is now called Thrift Store & More.


Donna D. Ellis, thrift ministry director for Atlanta Union Mission, talks about the work to fix up the former Potter's House thrift store.

Bargains still fill the former Potter’s House at 328 Oak St. in Gainesville.

But the rundown exterior that made the thrift store an easily visible downtown eyesore is no more.

The Atlanta Union Mission spent $300,000 on rebuilding the store and parking lot, as well as adding landscaping, and has changed the name of the operation to the Thrift Store & More.

Donna D. Ellis, the mission’s thrift ministry director, said that when she joined the organization three years ago, one of the first things she wanted to tackle was improving the physical appearance of the mission’s stores.

"I didn’t think the stores had a look that was very inviting. They didn’t really shout out to the community who we are and what we are about," Ellis said.

"I felt it was important to tie that together, to bring in a feeling here that people realized it was a Christian place and that their money and donations were really going to a wonderful cause."

Atlanta Union Mission is a Christian ministry founded in 1938 as a soup kitchen for people displaced during the Great Depression.

The organization runs six centers that provide emergency food and shelter, residential recovery programs and transitional housing.

The mission worked with marketing and public relations firms and focus groups over a year considering the thrift stores’ name and customer base, Ellis said.

"Our customers are not just the poor," she said. "We do have customers trying to stretch their family budget, but we have customers who enjoy the thrill of treasure hunting and thrift stores."

Originally, the organization was going to give the store an $85,000 face-lift, but officials noticed improvement in surrounding downtown areas.

"We just didn’t fit. We were an eyesore. People were calling us and (asking us), don’t you wanVt to sell your property?" Ellis said. "But we felt like it was a good location and we wanted to be here."

One frequent customer, Patricia McCray of Gainesville, said she appreciates the new look.

"It’s a great improvement," she said. "It’s clean, neat and things are organized."

The store has been operating since February 1988. The mission first leased the property and then bought it in October 2002.

The store’s interior was in rough shape, as well.

"It had a ceiling that was caving in that we felt was a safety issue," Ellis said, citing one example of repairs that had to be made.

Shana Daniels, who is taking over as manager of the thrift store, had other job offers when she accepted the Atlanta Union Mission job.

But she knew where she needed to be.

"Being a part of a ministry and doing what they do is my heart," she said. "I believe ... it’s just God’s plan or path that led me (here)."

The organization is planning a grand opening and dedication for the newly renovated store. The event is set to start at 11 a.m. Thursday.

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