Salvation Army opens new store at Geary and 4th Ave.

by Jonathan Farrell

A vacant building on Geary Boulevard that had once housed a bank and a synagogue has been transformed into a state-of-the-art, two-level Salvation Army Family Store.

The response from Richmond District residents has been positive, according to store manager Marlene Heller.

"Sales in the first two weeks since our grand opening June 4th have been pretty good," she said.

Store supervising overseer, Major Jack Phillips, who oversees the Army's stores, agrees.

"People appreciate that we have opened a store in their neighborhood," he said.

Changing the marketing approach to the usual "thrift stores" that, along with the red kettles at holiday time, have been a hallmark of Salvation Army's outreach to the general public, is progressive.

"This is a cut above anything we have opened before," Phillips said.

"It was decided that "thrift" is not the best concept anymore as times have changed," he said. "We want to attract people who have spending money, as these family stores help raise funds for our outreach programs."

This is the main reason for moving into the Richmond.

"People who have money to spend, such as middle-class and working-class families, are more likely to shop in their neighborhood rather than an area unfamiliar or uncomfortable to them," Phillips said.

People appreciate finding a bargain on good merchandise in a more department-like setting, he noted.

"It's a place were an array of quality goods might be found at a reasonable price," Phillips said.

Operating more than 1,500 family stores nationwide, 86 cents of every dollar spent at the stores goes directly to adult rehabilitation centers, residency programs designed especially to help drug addicts rebuild their lives. There are 118 centers in the U.S., including two residency programs in the City, one being the Pinehurst Lodge, located near West Portal.

"We have been helping people get 'a hand up,' not just a 'hand out,' for over a century," Phillips said.

"Drug addiction has created more problems, especially methamphetamine," Phillips said. "Meth is the worst, making our work much harder. The damage it causes is severe and the hold of its addiction is much stronger as it works much faster on the user."

Seeing addicts much younger, in their teens and 20s, Phillips has been with the Salvation Army for more than 30 years.

The loss of teeth, depletion of over-all physical health and damage to mental capacities are the scars of addiction.

The Salvation Army works to keep in step with the troubles and issues of a complex high-tech modern world.

The family stores are an important part of the Salvation Army's fund-raising and outreach to the public.

Salvation Army Family at 3921 Geary Blvd. is open six days a week, Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, call (415) 876-6390.