[caption id="attachment_31624" align="alignright" width="288" caption="Assistant Manager Thomas Gonzalez and General Manager Mike Runyan"][/caption]

SANTA ROSA -- Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County has brought in a retailing veteran to increase the fund-raising potential of its ReStore home-improvement thrift store in northwest Santa Rosa.

Mike Runyan, 69, a former Santa Rosa city councilman and grocery entrepreneur, came out of retirement in October to become general manager of the ReStore resale outlet in Santa Rosa.

“In order to appeal to as many people as possible, we needed to look at the selection of products and the shopping flow on the floor,” Mr. Runyan said.

Initial steps were better organizing the team of 40 volunteers, cleaning up the salesfloor, expanding inventory to include large appliances, doors, plumbing and electrical fixtures, cabinetry including some with stone tops, lighting, windows, furniture and, most recently, high-end fabric and some plants.

It's part of a push to upgrade the quality of items for sale.

"We had a lot of stuff in here that was not worth $5 or $10," Mr. Runyan said.

[caption id="attachment_31625" align="alignleft" width="360" caption="Santa Rosa ReStore volunteers Clint Stevenson and Johnny Rose assemble a floor sample cabinet from one of a number of kits donated by Wholesale Building Products of Santa Rosa. (Jeff Quackenbush photos)"][/caption]

Donations come from local home-improvement stores such as Friedman’s Home Improvement, Lowe's and The Home Depot and manufacturers' seconds. But much of it is being sought from homeowners and their contractors involved with high-end remodeling.

Another way Mr. Runyan is trying to drive sales is marketing. Free online resources are being leveraged to keep costs down and maximize contributions to the Habitat construction fund, Mr. Runyan said. So major new items and specials are being listed on online free ad sites, the outlet's website and distributed via Twitter.

The better, larger inventory and retailing focus seem to be garnering early success, according to Mr. Runyan. Before, gross monthly sales were $12,000 to $15,000. Sales in January were the highest ever for the Santa Rosa reseller, $60,000, but the biggest share of the store overhead is the six paid staff members and the low-rate lease for the space.

"It will be offset with growth," Mr. Runyan said. "We made a small profit in January and February, but we need to contain costs and keep growing."

The increased selection including fabric has attracted not only do-it-yourselfers but also homeowners looking to give their contractors ideas and rental owners looking to outfit newly acquired properties.

Several hundred U.S. and Canada chapters of Georgia-based Habitat for Humanity International have set up ReStore outlets, which accept donations of building and remodeling materials, furniture and appliances for resale at a fraction -- often less than half -- of the retail price. Proceeds go to the local Habitat organization to build housing for needy families.

The Sonoma County chapter of the Georgia-based nondenominational Christian charity homebuilder started its ReStore-type operation in a local member’s garage several years ago to provide another source of income for building homes for families who can’t afford them. A full-fledged outlet started in a 4,000-square-foot Santa Rosa warehouse in 2005.

In May of last year, ReStore made a big expansion to an 18,000-square-foot portion of Pine Creek Properties’ Palm Square shopping center at Piner Road and Airway Drive, located across a parking lot from Habitat’s Santa Rosa base of operations.

The only other ReStore location in the Bay Area currently is operated by Habitat for Humanity East Bay in Oakland.

Habitat for Humanity of Greater San Francisco, which is responsible for San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin counties, is considering a ReStore location, most likely on the Peninsula, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Doettling.

For more information, call 707-568-3228 or visit www.socohabitatrestore.org.