It’s been more than a year since a fire gutted the Helping Hand Thrift Store at 3726 Grand Blvd. in Brookfield. But the building is about to get a complete rehab, said Mary Beth Hepp, executive director of the Countryside-based nonprofit social services agency.
The agency’s insurance company, The Horton Group, will receive bids for the interior work on Friday, said Hepp, and will choose a general contractor for the project, which could begin in June.
“We’re rebuilding it to the way it was, but up to code,” said Hepp, who noted that the rehab work will essentially give the agency a completed shell that could then be repurposed for another use.
A thrift store isn’t in the plans, and no decision has been made on what the building will be used for in the future.
“Based on our recent strategic planning needs assessment, and with board of director approval, we have decided to use this property for something besides a thrift store,” said Hepp in an emailed statement. “We will renovate the property to be used in a way that more directly benefits our clients by giving them a greater opportunity to be involved in the community, hopefully with a program in that building that provides more jobs for our clients. Nothing specific has been decided yet.”
In a phone interview, Hepp said the space could be used as a small business, perhaps in the food-service area, which could provide jobs for its clients while filling a community need.
Helping Hand’s mission is to help people with disabilities achieve “their highest level of independence,” according to the agency’s website. The Helping Hand Thrift Store, which was a fixture on Grand Boulevard since the 1970s, employed three people and 25 volunteers. The business also provided employment training for student clients of Helping Hand.
“We want to focus on getting our clients more involved in the community,” said Hepp. “We want to serve our clients and the community. What exactly that is, we don’t know yet.
“The first step is to get the building in shape.”
Helping Hand has owned the large commercial storefront at 3627 Grand Blvd. since 1990. It also owns the building at 3730 Grand Blvd., the first floor of which was the original site of the thrift store back in the 1970s.
On April 18, 2013, the basement of the thrift store flooded in the wake of torrential rains that caused widespread flooding in Brookfield. That night, sparks from a faulty fluorescent light fixture ignited clothes in the shop and the fire spread quickly, gutting the building. The storefront at 3730 Grand Blvd. also suffered severe smoke damage.