The Crossroads Center parking lot was filled and more than 150 people stood in line Saturday morning, awaiting the grand opening of the new Salvation Army Store in the East Winnie Lane shopping center.
The Salvation Army's store, which resells items donated to the church-based service organization, had been absent from Carson City since an electric fan caught fire at its old downtown location in August 1996 and its merchandise was ruined by smoke and water. The Army had already been seeking a new location at the time of the fire.
The Winnie Lane location is literally new, built to the organization's specifications and leased from mall operator McKenzie Properties of Reno.
Mayor Ray Masayko joined Salvation Army Lt. Col. Charles Strickland of Sacramento in cutting the ribbon for the 8,000-square-foot store, then the bargain seekers filed in to check out the goods.
Among them was Harriet Keeran, who worked at the old location for 18 years and was manager when it closed down.
"I never had a selection like this," Keeran marveled as she worked through a rack of dresses. "If they need me, maybe I'll volunteer."
One of the busiest sections displayed children's and infants' clothing. Women crowded shoulder to shoulder along the racks of neatly arranged and clearly priced clothes.
Living room sets, pairs of dressers, racks of books and records, displays of knickknacks all drew the attention of shoppers. With large windows forming three walls of the new store, the bargain hunters had plenty of light to inspect their finds for cleanliness and condition.
Barely a half hour after the doors opened, a line of buyers loaded with merchandise had formed a ring around the checkout area and another cash register was being brought from Reno to speed things up.
Before the doors opened, Strickland explained to the crowd why the store's name does not include the word "thrift."
"This new store is put together in a far more organized manner that makes it easy to shop. It's consumer friendly," he said. "We used to hear that we sold 'junk for Jesus.' But we believe we're 'merchandising for the Master.' "
He pointed out that the the sales of donated goods received at Carson City and six Salvation Army stores in Reno support $5 million worth of the group's programs in the area, including the Adult Rehabilitation programs . Nationally, the Salvation Army operates about 1,700 stores, he said.
Lt. John Van Cleef, pastor of the Carson City Salvation Army Church at 861 Colorado Street, said he was glad the store was back in operation, though it is not directly affiliated with his church. The local church has been operating in the community in the absence of the store and would still be here if the store was gone at some point in the future, he said.
The Carson City church operates its own social services outreach programs. Vouchers issued by the local church to families who need clothing or household items will be honored by the Salvation Army Store.