By Jim Davis The Herald Business Journal Editor
EVERETT — An oar leans against a wall near fish netting. A pair of skis stand next to a fireplace with a roaring blaze. Seashells lay scattered on an end table.
There’s a lot of thought put into the displays of the casual, homey look in the showroom of ReNewWorks Home and Decor Store at 3331 Broadway.
Even the names of the merchandise get the same treatment: A table isn’t just a table, it’s an Asian-inspired inlay sideboard.
“My boss places stuff where it doesn’t just look like furniture it looks roomy, so you can be like, ‘Oh I could picture that in my house,’” Kim Culley said. “The whole goal when we name furniture on the pricetag is we don’t think of it as a dresser, we think of what it could be.”
Culley, 20, was on an internship helping her gain job skills that she can hopefully use for the rest of her life. She’s had other jobs, but she’s learning new skills including inventory, cashiering and how to market items like an Asian-inspired inlay sideboard on Facebook and Instagram.
The store is one of three self-sustaining businesses run by the nonprofit HopeWorks, an offshoot of Housing Hope, which has been providing affordable housing for people in need for 27 years.
HopeWorks aims to create these businesses to generate jobs, build skills and help low-income people move up the wage ladder, said HopeWorks CEO Ed Petersen.
“What this site is doing is building on the Housing Hope program and the stability and the attitude change and the growing self confidence by creating that next step toward jobs,” Petersen said. “And helping people be productive in our economy.”
Petersen helped launch HopeWorks in 2011.
“It was all dreamland,” Petersen said. “I felt out on a limb a lot of this time, but I started with Housing Hope Day One with five other board members so I figured we know how to do this and we know what the community wants and we know a lot about marketing communication and grant resources and people in the community who want to be involved.”
The first business started was GroundWorks Landscaping, in part, because Housing Hope has so many properties around Snohomish County.
“Landscaping started, because Housing Hope owned 20 different landscapes and we thought we could learn on our own nickel and use our own sites,” Petersen said. “We were paying others to do our landscaping.”
Signature Landscape Services in Redmond has helped HopeWorks with understanding how to run and operate a landscaping business. The company also helped HopeWorks with its second venture, WaterWorks Irrigation Services. The third venture was the upscale, consignment store ReNewWorks.
HopeWorks were originally located on Evergreen Way, but moved in September to the building on Broadway at what’s being called HopeWorks Station.
The building used to be an MRI and diagnostic clinic, but the company went out of business. In July 2013, a bathroom in the building leaked during the weekend and heavily damaged the inside of the building.
HopeWorks was able to purchase the building for $1.25 million in March 2014. The nonprofit moved its headquarters and three businesses to the site.
Petersen said it’s an ideal location, because it is only a couple of blocks away from the buses at Everett Station and easily accessible to anyone who lives in the Housing Hope properties.
It’s also large enough for Petersen’s vision. The nonprofit owns about an acre at the site and would like to add another three businesses. The nonprofit would also like to build a five-story building at the site to include housing on the top floors and commercial space on the bottom floor.
HopeWorks has landed several low-interest loans from investors in the community to support the effort. And it received a huge vote of confidence in December when the Employees Community Fund of Boeing Puget Sound gave it a $500,000 grant.
The money will be used for building improvements at HopeWorks Station. It will also purchase two new trucks and equipment for three existing HopeWorks businesses and will help launch a fourth business this year.
Petersen said that HopeWorks doesn’t have long-term data on how people fare after going through the program. And not everyone goes on a linear path from internship to job. But they’ve had a string of successes.
“If you’re measuring it strictly out of the internships, we’re probably getting 75 percent moving into jobs,” he said.