Love Inc., of Burlington, has purchased this building at 401 Milwaukee Ave., Burlington, and plans to move portions of its resale operations into the building by January. The building formerly housed the Reineman’s Sports Shop. (Photo by Ed Nadolski)

Agency plans to move resale operations to site

By Ed Nadolski

Editor in Chief

Looking to alleviate a space crunch at its current site on South Pine Street, Love Inc. has purchased the building that formerly housed Reineman’s Sport Shop on Milwaukee Avenue.

The highly visible retail building will likely become home to the independent social service agency’s resale shop and donation center, according to Love Inc. Executive Director Barbara Howard.

“We’ve been aware that we have space issues for at least the past year,” she said. “But it really came to light after the flooding (in July) that we really need a different kind of space.”

Howard said the agency’s board of directors is currently sifting through several ideas to determine exactly what the new location will house.

“We really feel the building will work well for us,” she said. “There are so many thoughts and ideas (for its use) – we’re putting focus groups together.”

Howard said the organization hopes to have those decisions made by the end of October and plans to be moved into the new building by mid January.

In addition to the main thrift store, Love Inc. also has a furniture shop, bookstore and children’s store at the current location, 480 S. Pine St. The agency also has a thrift shop in Waterford.

Regardless of the changes in the resale operations, Love Inc.’s headquarters and other services will remain at the site on Pine Street, Howard said.

Love Inc. was originally looking to lease space, but the owner of the site was more interested in selling the building, Howard said.

Because the building has always been a retail store ­– first for groceries and then for sporting goods – Howard said Love won’t need to make major changes or renovations.

She said the agency anticipates painting the exterior and making minor façade upgrades as well as some similar upgrades inside.

“Our intention is to have it look nice,” she said.

City of Burlington Administrator Carina Walters said Love Inc. won’t likely have to jump through many hoops at the municipal level unless it plans major changes to the building, which is currently zoned for retail use.

The building opened in July 1969 as a Red Owl grocery store, according to information supplied by the Burlington Historical Society. Spiegelhoff’s Super Food Market moved its grocery operation into the building in 1977 and Reineman’s expanded into the building in 1987, about a year after Spiegelhoff’s, then affiliated with Pick n’ Save, moved to the Fox River Plaza shopping center.

In addition to the retail area, the building has a considerable amount of warehouse space, which is crucial to the agency’s goal of receiving, assessing and reselling donated items, according to Howard.

That process, she said, has been hindered by the space crunch at the current site.

“Our goal is to get items in, processed and out the door,” she said.

The resale shops are the major revenue-producing arm of the agency and it helps fund many of Love Inc.’s services, including its food pantry and meal site. The agency annually assists hundreds of area residents with food, financial counseling and other services.

Howard said the new site gives Love Inc. a chance to review the retail aspects of the operation and improve them moving forward.

“We are very excited about this, (but) it’s a little scary, too, because we’re making some big changes,” she said.