BLISS prepares for move

Published 10:38 am Wednesday, August 2, 2017

BLISS of Lunenburg, a thrift store on Victoria’s Main Street that sells gently-used items and provides workforce training for individuals with disabilities, donating the store’s proceeds to nonprofits in the area, is set to move down the street to a more expansive location at the end of September.

The store will move from its current location on 1808 Main St. to 1816 Main St., the former site of Southside Furniture & Floor Covering Inc.

Pictured is the inside of the former Southside Furniture & Floor Covering Inc. at 1816 Main St., where BLISS of Lunenburg is set to hold its grand opening Oct. 3. The main floor will have 6,300 square feet of space that will allow greater accessibility for patrons with mobility devices, such as wheelchairs or walkers.

BLISS founder Lena Hipps-Clarke said the new location, with an expanded main floor and accessible restrooms for those with disabilities, will continue to provide services to the community.

“We are very fortunate to the community, who has helped us to continue our operations and has helped us donate … to different charities,” Hipps-Clarke said.

The showroom in the new store will be 6,300 square feet, allowing greater space for those with assistance needs, such as wheelchairs and walkers, to navigate the location.

The new store location will also have new LED lights, updated electrical wiring, accessible restrooms

for people with disabilities, new paint, two dressing rooms, a store office and a 3,700-square-foot basement where staff members can sort, price and organize the donations.

Hipps-Clarke said the search began for a new location after being notified that the existing lease could not be renewed.

Hipps-Clarke credits the opportunity to move into the new location from proceeds and a financial gift from friend and former Victoria Elementary School colleague Richard Eressy, who Hipps-Clarke said donated the funds he received from selling his home and associated property in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Though construction is underway, Hipps-Clarke said donations are still needed to put down carpet, laminate flooring and decking boards. To donate, Clarke and Hipps-Clarke can be reached at (434) 696-1330.

In founding BLISS, Hipps-Clarke, a special education teacher with Lunenburg County Public Schools (LCPS) wanted to establish a place where her special education students could get necessary workforce training in a retail environment.

Since its opening, Hipps-Clarke said the store has donated $25,000 to charities across the region, including Lunenburg Health Services, the Salvation Armies in Kenbridge and Victoria, the Lions Club and the Senior Citizen Center, in Victoria among others.

BLISS opened its doors in 2012 in a 1,500 square foot space close to its current location. It moved to its current location, which has 5,000 square feet of space, in November of 2014.

Though the current space was more expansive than its initial location, frequent donations soon crowded its rows.

The current store includes 24 clothing racks, which Clarence Clarke said is a large amount for the store space. He said the expansive location of the new store will offer more space between clothing rows so people operating wheelchairs and walkers could more easily navigate the store.

Hipps-Clarke agreed that the additional space would be beneficial to the patrons and staff.

“We’re tripping over things here, as I like to say,” Hipps-Clarke said.

The current store location will officially close Sept. 24. For the nine days between the current location’s closing and its grand opening at the new location, the owners and volunteers will move items to the new store and prepare it for the grand opening celebration, which is expected to take place Oct. 3 at 4 p.m.

Volunteers with the store are working to renovate the Southside Furniture space and transport supplies from the current location to the new location.

Kenbridge Industrial Electrical Services will rewire the electricity in the building this week.

Hipps-Clarke said a donation site is being constructed behind the new space to assist those who want to donate items. Clarke said he and others will pick up donations for those who are not able to come to the store.

Hipps-Clarke said the work has been difficult, but will be well worth the opportunities the new location will provide the community.

“We still have work to do but it will get done,” Hipps-Clarke said. “We will get it done.”