In May of this year–in what may prove to be a national trend–Goodwill Industries opened their first in a number of considered concept stores: an experiential electronic store in Charlotte, N.C., called The GRID, carrying a huge variety of electronic and video game goods at 15 to 65% of retail prices – freeing 200 million pounds of electronics waste from landfills in the process.
The one-of-a-kind store sells a variety of new, refurbished and donated electronics, including desktop and laptop computers, printers, flat screen televisions, audio components, Raspberry Pi, portable chargers, and phone and tablet accessories, according to their website.
The GRID also boasts an impressive array of retro games, gaming consoles and controllers, including rarities such as a boxed ColecoVision, Retro Trio, RetroN 5, Famicom, NE3, and even the coveted yellow cartridge Legend of Zelda.
“It’s a completely new and cool concept!” said Melinda Wilshire at Goodwill Industries. “When you walk into The GRID, it looks nothing like the typical Goodwill. We have gaming stations available for customers to try out new and used games. We have a great lounge area where we offer Wi-Fi access, so that we can encourage customers to come in and bring their laptops and their gaming systems, and really experience the store.”
Wilshire stressed the importance of the customer’s experience when they enter The GRID, and how different it is from what is typically at other Goodwill retail stores. Their customers include students and families looking for retro games, as well as teachers from the nearby university looking for discounted electronics for their students.
“Our location is right near UNC Charlotte (University of North Carolina Charlotte),” Wilshire said, “so we do certainly want to encourage students and families to come and experience this store, try out the products, and really have a fun experience when they come to The GRID.”
As part of Goodwill’s stated mission, Changing Lives Though the Power of Work, The GRID employs technologically knowledgeable people, providing training to disadvantaged job seekers in the area. In addition, 90 cents of every dollar spent at The GRID goes directly to funding Goodwill’s mission, said Wilshire, distinguishing them from similar retailers such as GameStop and Best Buy.
Store Manager Rivera Spears is a self-titled gamer, and takes great pride in The GRID, which she has helped build since its inception.
“The reward is being able to come to a place that I really enjoy,” said Rivera. “Being surrounded by these sweet games, and seeing people come enjoy the stuff that I’ve grown fond of myself is very fun.”
The GRID has already gained significant media attention in its short time since opening. A post on the popular community website Reddit generated more publicity than The GRID could handle, shutting down their web system temporarily due to the monstrously increased traffic.
“We’ve been absolutely thrilled by the national attention that it’s garnered,” said Wilshire. “We’ve certainly been fielding requests, not only from universities, but from other cities to have a GRID-type store available in their location.”
While there are no definite plans for new locations, Wilshire hopes that some of the 165 different independent Goodwill organizations in the U.S. can “see the benefit of it,” and that they would want to work with them to launch something similar in their areas.
Learn more about The GRID: Powered by Goodwill at www.goodwillsp.org/shop/thegrid