On a biting cold and windy morning of Feb. 5, dozens of volunteers and supporters of the Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry gathered to celebrate the long-anticipated grand opening and ribbon cutting of BEAM’s newest thrift store location at 7north.
The chilly temps didn’t deter the line of loyal BEAM (Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry Inc.) thrift store shoppers who lined up in the early morning hours to be among the first customers of the new, larger store they have eagerly anticipated.
The thrift store is located in the 7north building located at the corner of Third St. and Seventh Ave. N. – the former Jacksonville Beach U.S. Post Office location. The building is owned by Beaches United Methodist Church which neighbors the property. The church spearheaded what will be a number of collaborative partnerships with community and non-profit leaders of local ministries that provide assistance to underserved Beaches residents.
“This store has been a long time in the making,” said BEAM Executive Director Susan King. “We had hoped to open last summer and it has been an extraordinary effort by the church, by this group and we are just thrilled and excited.”
The new store has tripled the available retail space and made for better parking options and more convenient donation drop-off. This location is the organization’s third thrift store. BEAM’s first store, located at 1110 Shetter Ave. in Jacksonville Beach opened two years ago. The second location opened last summer in Mayport at 1447 Mayport Rd., Atlantic Beach.
The 18,000 square foot building sat vacant for five years. The building is worth an estimated $2 million. It recently underwent a complete renovation, made possible through a generous donation and efforts by Pastor Jerry Sweat and the congregation of Beaches United Methodist Church.
The building will eventually house a number of services for the Beaches community. The opening of BEAM Thrift at 7north is the first piece of that vision to begin operation. In March, a satellite location for Feeding Northeast Florida, the community’s food bank that serves 17 area counties, will open. The Beaches Community Food Bank will be managed by BEAM and serve as a “Hub-and-Spoke” model for FNEFL. Since the satellite location will have on-site refrigerators and freezers for food storage, it will allow FNEFL to streamline delivery operations to the food bank and make the organization more efficient in the process. The Beaches Community Food Bank will be a distribution site for the organizations, faith-based agencies and non-profits that feed area homeless and underserved individuals. The third component of services offered will be mental health services that will include advocacy, education and resources.
Beach Church worshipers raised $1 million in the spring and summer of 2015 for the building’s renovations. Additional funds from churches, foundations and individuals will allow for further upgrades to both the exterior and interior of the buildout and a reserve fund for future upkeep, management and maintenance of the property. Operations of 7north will be governed through a board of directors that will be overseeing the mission. Long-term tenant leases and revenue sharing will allow 7north to be a self-sustaining operation.
Neptune Beach Mayor Harriet Pruette and Atlantic Beach Mayor Mitch Reeves also attended the ribbon cutting. “We like to say that we’re three cities in one community and this is a good example of that today,” Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham said before cutting the ribbon.
Annually, BEAM supports more than 20,000 Beaches residents with over $900,000 of services. Founded in 1985, BEAM helps low-income families and individuals in the Jacksonville Beaches area through emergencies and guides them to self-sufficiency. Services include rent and utility assistance, food pantries, an organic garden that provides thousands of pounds of fresh vegetables and fruits to their clients annually, nutritional educational programs and a Back to School program serving about 1,000 kids each year. Revenue generated from thrift store sales go towards BEAM’s programs.
“We didn’t get here by ourselves. There was a visionary leader of the Beach United Methodist Church (who) really saw this building that had been sitting vacant for so long as a community asset and that church worked very hard to create this space. We’re going to be the first of many things going into this building, but it’s a very exciting day for us here at BEAM,” King said.
The Shetter Ave. and Mayport thrift stores are open Tues.-Sat.,10 a.m.-5 p.m. BEAM Thrift at 7north is located at 318 Seventh Ave. N., Jacksonville Beach and is open Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Donations will only be accepted at the new location. BEAM Thrift can also pick up larger donations. To schedule a pickup, call (904) 853-6246.