“When I started working at the ReStore, I didn’t know much about Habitat,” said Grant Carlson, Operations Coordinator at Twin Cities Habitat’s New Brighton ReStore. “Then I realized how lucky I was. It has turned from a job into a labor of love.”
The ReStore is certainly lucky to have Grant—the only member of the team who’s been there since just after the first Twin Cities ReStore opened about ten years ago in North Minneapolis. It all began when a builder’s surplus store was failing, and the owner decided to donate everything—the building, stock, fork lift, and a two-year lease—to Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. Grant was in college working at a hardware store at the time, and his boss quit to become the manager of the ReStore. Soon, his boss came calling with a job offer at the ReStore, and Grant accepted.
Since then, Grant helped move the ReStore to its New Brighton location in 2009. He saw the ReStore through periods when it almost closed. And now he marvels at the ReStore’s success as the team opened a second store in Minneapolis last fall, and hopes to open more stores in the future.
Grant attributes a big part of that success to the ability of the ReStore team to work well together.
“This job is a collaborative effort,” Grant said. “We will all jump in for each other because we’re part of a team. We always have to be on point—keeping our heads on a swivel, because there’s always something new going on.”
“I know what to expect, but I never know what’s going to happen,” Grant added. That delightful unpredictability has kept Grant engaged and challenged throughout his near decade at the ReStore.
A few minutes later, as if to prove that point, a team member came into the office where we were talking and asked for Grant’s help. They had just sold a big sub-zero fridge, and the buyer was ready to bring it home immediately. Without hesitation, Grant jumped in to help. A big purchase like that fridge means more support for Habitat’s mission, and Grant is more than willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. His teammates agree.
“Grant is the epitome of Minnesota Nice,” said Jill Carmody, ReStore Manager. “If you want great service you ask for Grant. He goes above and beyond for our customers, donors, and volunteers every day. Grant has been with ReStore since almost day one; we would not be where we are today without him. Grant is a cornerstone to our ReStore community. I am very thankful for the commitment he brings to our organization.”
Grant is quick to point out how crucial volunteers are in that process.
“I’ll tell volunteers that we can’t do this without them, and they’ll go ‘Yeah, OK,’ and then I say, in all seriousness, ‘No, really—we can’t do this work without volunteers.’ I know, because I have done this work without them and it was terrible,” Grant said with a laugh. Initially, the ReStore didn't utilize volunteer support, but last year over 3,000 volunteers pitched in to cashier, merchandise, or run the donation door in shifts of 3-4 hours.
“I’m really not in charge,” Grant added, “it’s the volunteers, coworkers—we’re all in this together.”
Although all ReStore employees need to take on many hats, Grant’s official title is “ReStore Operations Coordinator.” He oversees the behind-the-scenes stuff, like making sure donated items are received, organized, and prepped for a quick turnaround to the sales floor.
One of his favorite donations came when Seven Corners Hardware, an iconic hardware store in downtown St. Paul for 80 years, closed a few years ago and donated what was left to the ReStore. But he often sees great hardware and other items when people clean out their garages in the spring and drop off what they want to donate.
Grant has a few tips for being a dream drop-off donor:
- Check the list to ensure everything will be accepted
- Make sure items are clean so ReStore staff and volunteers can focus on selling them
- Organize your items—at least a little bit
There are many different ways you can join Grant and the ReStore team to make home happen for families across the Twin Cities.