SHALIMAR – Tallahassee-based Goodwill Industries-Big Bend Inc. is considering opening a bookstore and donation center in the former Food Max building at 1285 Eglin Parkway.
“We’re at that state where we’re trying to talk with the city on it,” Goodwill spokesman Cody Gray said Monday. “There are some permitting issues we have to work through with the city. I would hope (to open) in the near future, but it’s kind of touch and go to make sure all of our ducks are in a row with the city.”
Shalimar Town Administrator Tom Burns said Goodwill has not yet filed its development application.
“They need a special exception, according to our land development code, to operate as a warehouse,” Burns said. “As soon as they make the application, we could move forward with that.”
The overall process would require a recommendation from the town Planning and Zoning Board to the Town Council to approve the special exception.
Shalimar Mayor Gary Combs said the building that formerly housed the Food Max store has been empty for at least 10 years.
“We’d like to see something happen to that site,” he said.
Gray said Goodwill is interested in leasing the 2,804-square-foot former Food Max building from its owner, which is listed on the Okaloosa County Property Appraiser’s website as Raiyan Investment Inc. of Boca Raton.
The potential Goodwill donation center would accept clothing, furniture, household goods and other items, which could be sold at Goodwill Industries-Big Bend Inc.’s affiliated stores, such as those in Crestview, Valparaiso, Destin and Santa Rosa Beach, Gray said. He said the possible bookstore/donation center in Shalimar could provide at least five jobs.
The Goodwill store at 913 Beal Parkway in the unincorporated Okaloosa County area of Wright is managed by Goodwill Easter Seals of the Gulf Coast.
Gray said that while both Goodwill Industries-Big Bend Inc. and Goodwill Easter Seals of the Gulf Coast are members of Goodwill Industries International Inc., they operate as individual nonprofit organizations that have their own territories and boards of directors.
The site of the former Food Max store is about a quarter-mile east of the Shalimar Library and Thrift Shop at 115 Richbourg Ave. Volunteers who were working at the library Monday morning expressed concerns that the possible Goodwill facility in Shalimar would hurt the library/thrift shop operations.
“It would have a huge impact,” volunteer Pat Wood said.
Volunteer Kathy Gerth agreed.
“It’s disappointing,” she said. “I would have preferred a restaurant or a dress shop” at the old Food Max site.
The library opened in its current location last fall after relocating from its old, smaller site on 10th Avenue. The women said revenue from the library’s thrift shop pays for new library books, as well as rent, utility costs and other expenses.
Last May, library officials signed a 20-year lease agreement with the city for the new location on Richbourg Avenue. The agreement includes rent-free use of the space during the first year and an annual lease rate of $5,000 for each subsequent year.
Burns said he is not concerned that the possible Goodwill facility might negatively affect the library/thrift shop operations.
“We don’t even know what Goodwill is going to do,” he said. The old Food Max site and the library/thrift shop location “are both zoned commercial. We don’t pick sides in the free marketplace.”