PEABODY — For the year-plus it has been open, Habitat for Humanity-North Shore's resale store — which sells used furniture, building supplies and other goods — has been hobbled like a chair with one leg shorter than the others.
That because when it opened in an industrial park on Pulaski Street, it did so in an area where retail is forbidden.
The nonprofit organization that provides affordable home ownership opportunities on the North Shore had spent $200,000 fixing up the space in a former plastic bag factory at 58 Rear Pulaski St. by adding windows, doors and bathrooms, according to the special permit application.
ReStore is now a place where you can buy a lot of things, including the kitchen sink.
However, it has only been able to use a fraction of its 15,800 square feet of leased space for retail.
It's been operating under a permit from the city as a warehouse with a 2,000-square-foot showroom — that in itself was a concession.
A white wall divides the front of the store from the sprawling back portion where there is all manner of furniture and building supplies, including doors, windows, hardware, and flooring, and the aforementioned kitchen sinks.
Don Preston, the executive director of the local Habitat chapter, said the operation of the ReStore could expand if the City Council on Thursday votes to approve a special permit that will allow it to use a total of 12,000 square feet for retail space, reserving the back section for receiving, storing and repairing items.
According to Preston, the special permit will allow Habitat to realize the full potential of the space it is renting, and funds generated by the store will be used to build affordable housing across the North Shore.
Recent local Habitat projects include the rehab of a property on Park Street in Peabody, completing a single-family ranch on Laurine Road in Danvers, and the start of a duplex on Hull Street in Wenham, Preston said.
"We are going for our special permit as allowed under the new zoning the council enacted this past spring," said Preston, who added that the organization is also applying for a junk dealer's license from the council the same night, but "we don't consider ourselves a junk dealer."
The council has been sympathetic to Habitat's dilemma, but it has wrestled with how to allow a retail store in what is a light industrial zoning district without opening the doors for other sellers to come into the industrial park as well.
Last year, the council rejected Habitat's proposal for a zoning change to allow stores of 50,000 square feet or less in the area.
Ward 2 Councilor Peter McGinn said the original concern about adding retail in an industrial zone was that it "might have unintended consequences."
"You can't just zone it for one particular applicant," he said.
In March, the City Council passed a "narrowly defined use" change in the city's zoning ordinance in relation to light industrial areas, one that requires the applicant to be a nonprofit to open a store, McGinn said.
The zoning change allows "charitable retail" stores of less than 12,000 square feet that sell "general merchandise, furniture, household goods, dry goods, clothing, hardware, paint, household appliances, and/or books." Charities need a special permit from the council to open such stores, which is where Thursday's public hearing comes in.
"Habitat does great work and I support it," McGinn said.
"Peabody has received us very well," Preston said, "outside of the hiccup in the zoning, which everyone wanted to figure out, which everyone has figured out."
"Yes, it's been a long road," said Gary Cowles, president of Habitat for Humanity-North Shore, "but the city has helped in any way they can. We are very pleased to get it done and operating totally above board and having more space to show our stuff."
Cowles said the struggle has been to let people know they are open in what is an out-of-the-way location.
"We need more customers," Preston said during a tour of the store on Monday afternoon.
The products come from all over the North Shore. The store sells all manner of household items and furniture, including a brand-new outdoor patio set, a porcelain cat, lighting fixtures, and other items that most likely would have found its way into a dumpster, Preston said.
Some of the merchandise is new, such as returned merchandise or items ordered in the wrong color that retailers would normally have discarded. Other stuff is donated from household cleanouts, or people call the store looking to donate items. The store sells new and gently used appliances, too.
The items are curated, meaning the store does not accept everything. There is no clothing for sale, and the store does not need hutches or entertainment centers that no longer sell, Preston said.
The first such Habitat ReStore stores in other parts of the country started by selling construction materials, which makes sense given Habitat's mission of building affordable housing. The ReStore carries a selection of doors, windows, tiles, kitchen cabinets, flooring and other building materials. Homeowners who have been selected to build a Habitat house will shop the store for items such as a kitchen sink.
Preston noted his wife, Janice, who served as general manager for the first year ReStore was open, has recently retired for a second time. She used to manage their former Casa De Moda specialty gift store on Cabot Street in downtown Beverly for 45 years.
"You are seeing that merchandising touch," Preston said of ReStore's showroom.
The ReStore is open Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can also browse the store's merchandise online at www.habitatforhumanity-northshore.com/shop-restore-online/.