A surprising new retail and learning center called The Grid…Powered by Goodwill hopes to tap UNC Charlotte’s intellectual energy. The public can explore The Grid daily at 9605 N. Tryon St. Shop for new and used computers, Bluetooth speakers, accessories and TVs, test games in the store lounge and even explore virtual reality on the radical Oculus Rift.
“You’re going to walk into The Grid and experience Goodwill in a new and innovative way,” says Angela Amos, director of Marketing and Communications for Goodwill …. Goodwill?
The Grid…Powered by Goodwill “is completely different,” Amos added. … “Hopefully we are introducing a retail concept that adds value to the community, makes technology accessible, and engages the University community.”
Most of us know Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont for its 22 nonprofit stores and 50 donation sites that take in donated clothing and household goods and resell them to fund their mission of helping people train for and develop sustainable careers. One Goodwill store, Computer Works on Freedom Drive, has specialized in used and reconditioned computer equipment. In 2013, Goodwill provided career training, employment services and other job-related help to nearly 15,000 people in the Charlotte region.
A whole new way of seeing Goodwill
The Grid redefines much of what we think we know about Goodwill. For starters, the 2,800-square-foot store has an extensive offering of new as well as gently used merchandise. One of the newer offerings includes Raspberry Pi, the popular mini-computer-based learning toys for kids. “By selling brand-new merchandise, in addition to donated and refurbished goods, we will offer the public a new level of products, service and excitement while maintaining our commitment to keeping prices affordable,” said Barbara Maida-Stolle, Executive Vice President of Business Enterprises at Goodwill. “Whether customers choose to tinker with a Raspberry Pi, upgrade their television or try the Oculus Rift experience, The Grid will have it all for them to experience.” Amos says the Grid will be as much an experience as a shopping destination, “so the layout is conducive to people exploring. There’s a lounge area for gaming and the opportunity for people to experience Oculus Rift.”
Close to UNC Charlotte
A brand innovation conceived to meet the rising demand in our area, The Grid’s location on North Tryon Street puts it close to an important resource, the students and professors at UNC Charlotte. “This is an opportunity to tap into a very energetic and burgeoning part of the community,” Amos said. “No. 1, UNCC as a community is growing, not only in Charlotte but across the region.” Being literally across the street from campus “is a fantastic place to connect with the community and education,” she added.
Reaching out with tech ed
Education has always been central to Goodwill’s mission. Amos said that The Grid will help Goodwill raise awareness about the importance of technology education and its prevalence in today’s culture to audiences. Plans include STEM-based learning (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities for children. How and where that engagement takes place is being determined in collaboration with different partners in the community. The first step is happening now, with Goodwill staff reaching out to leaders of groups as diverse as Girl Scouts, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and UNC Charlotte on ways to provide effective supplemental activities. The College of Education has a department devoted to STEM learning.
Donations still important
The new format does not change one important part of Goodwill’s operation – transforming donated goods into new resources. “Ninety cents of every dollar we earn at The Grid will go to fund job placement, job training and career resources,” Amos said. The Grid welcomes any electronic devices regardless of condition, ranging from computers and monitors to stereo components and flat-screen TVs. Cell phones are especially needed. All devices are processed to remove personal information using the strictest Department of Defense security standards, Amos said.
Hours, website and more
The Grid is open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and noon-7 p.m. Sundays at 9605 N. Tryon St. in the Terraces at University Place shopping center. Learn more by calling 704-916-1655 or visiting Thegridgoodwill.com