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Published: Friday, 4/17/2009

Secondhand store is 2nd chance for jobless

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Kathy Snyder of Temperance, right, speaks with Christine Bickell with Savers about being hired at the company's Executive Parkway shop during the hiring fair, which drew hundreds. Kathy Snyder of Temperance, right, speaks with Christine Bickell with Savers about being hired at the company's Executive Parkway shop during the hiring fair, which drew hundreds.
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In good times, a secondhand store like Savers Inc. might have difficulty finding qualified people to fill jobs paying "just over minimum wage" of $6.55 an hour.

But not now.

Over the past three days, 800 applicants showed up for 50 jobs at the chain's new store off Secor Road in Toledo's Westgate area.

"It will be hard to narrow down to 50 people," Jeff Veith, manager of the store that is scheduled to open June 4, said.

For three days, about 800 people have vied to fill 50 jobs, most of which pay $6.55 an hour. For three days, about 800 people have vied to fill 50 jobs, most of which pay $6.55 an hour.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Wages for nonsupervisory jobs at the store are near minimum wage.

Shortly before noon yesterday, applicants filled rows of folding chairs set up near the front of the still-vacant store that will sell used clothing and household items. Clutching clipboards, they filled out applications, then stood in line for a quick preliminary interview with store managers.

More than 100 applicants showed up at the retail outlet, 3550 Executive Pkwy., yesterday alone. And the quality of applicants was high, the manager said.

There were some newcomers to the labor force, but others had been let go after years on the job.

The new store in Westgate is set to open on June 4. It will be the second local store for the chain based in Bellevue, Wash. The new store in Westgate is set to open on June 4. It will be the second local store for the chain based in Bellevue, Wash.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

One applicant had a master's degree, Mr. Veith said.

Michelle Heilman, a 45-year-old mother of two, was laid off from her job as an administrative assistant at the end of January.

Impeccably dressed and articulate, she returned for a second interview after filling out an application Wednesday. She was optimistic after getting the call back. "It's a good sign," she said as she headed to her car.

Her last job was eliminated after slightly less than a year. She worked in retailing while attending college, and doesn't see it as a come-down. "The pay is different," she said. "But it's enough to pay the bills. Work is work."

Full-time employees, classified as anyone working at least 30 hours a week, receive full medical, dental, and vision benefits, a chain spokesman said.

Toledo staffing agency executive Bruce Rumpf isn't surprised by the level of interest in the modest-wage jobs. "It's an opening; it's a chance," Mr. Rumpf, president of Job1USA, said. "Most people want to work. They don't want to collect unemployment. They want to contribute. This is something new. It's an opportunity to get a foothold into something.

The Westgate store will be the second Toledo location for the for-profit Bellevue, Wash., chain, which has more than 220 stores across the United States, Canada, and Australia. The other Toledo store is on Reynolds at Heatherdowns Boulevard.

New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that annual sales at stores selling secondhand merchandise grew nearly 20 percent between 2002 and 2007 to $9.3 billion, despite a slight decrease in the number of such stores.

Sixty to 70 percent of jobs at the new Savers store will be full time, the manager said. That's important to many job-seekers.

Damen Abitua of Toledo makes $10 an hour working for an industrial cleaning firm that specializes in factory work. When the Toledo Jeep Assembly complex was going strong, the 22-year-old was working 40 hours a week.

Now, however, he must travel to Fremont to work and is down to one day a week. "This would be a lot better," Mr. Abitua said.

"People need jobs," said job-seeker Theresa Garrett, 19, as she surveyed the crowd at Savers. She works in retailing now, but her schedule was recently trimmed to 3 1/2 hours a day. "You can't live on that," said the resident of Toledo's Old West End.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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