A capacity crowd marked the return of an old friend in Uniontown on Wednesday morning.
“I come here all the time,” said Barbara Breakiron, a longtime St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store customer, as she brought some books to the checkout line at the store at 70 N. Mount Vernon Ave.
“I missed it when it was closed,” said Breakiron of New Salem. It was a common sentiment among those shopping at the store for the first time since a May 23 fire caused extensive damage.
A video posted on the St. Vincent de Paul Facebook page showed a long line outside as the doors opened at 10 a.m.
“I didn’t think it would be this big of a crowd,” said Roy Sarver, executive director of St. Vincent de Paul Uniontown Area Conference.
The overflow crowd could use other buildings on the conference campus, or go to booths set up in the parking area touting everything from registration for Head Start/Early Head Start of Fayette County and chances on various gift baskets to $2 “grab-and-go” boxes, free bread and rolls, and Christmas decorations.
A young volunteer was handing out certificates good for discounts through the weekend at the furniture store on the St. Vincent de Paul campus.
“I’m so happy to be here,” customer Rinda Ray Boyd of Farmington told Sarver. “I missed it so much.”
So did Boyd’s family. She said her daughter “was so excited” to hear about the reopening just over six weeks after the fire.
“We were trusting in the Lord,” said Adrianne Wilson, St. Vincent de Paul Uniontown board president and McClellandtown resident. “We were trusting in God to bring us back.”
The store was open on its first day back until 6 p.m. Normally its hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
“You never know what you’re going to find,” Boyd told Sarver as she moved through the checkout lines with buttons, cards and toothpaste.
Sarver said the ServPro crews from Connellsville were “right on schedule” with damage restoration.
Local ServPro president Ralph Grimm said last month that the structural damage was minimal — but still cost $60,000 to $100,000, a cost being covered by insurance.
“Still a little outside work needs to be done,” Sarver said. “But what they had to get done inside they got done.”
The thrift store is deemed a necessary part of what Wilson calls “a blessing to the community.” Without it, St. Vincent de Paul and its volunteers find it difficult to provide a range of services, including emergency food and clothing, support for the deaf and hard of hearing, and on-the-job training in such areas as retail, janitorial services and truck driving.
“There is no negative situation that God can’t turn around,” Wilson said.
Sarver, of Monongahela, hoped that authorities might find the person or persons responsible for the May 23 fire before another negative situation happens. The fire has been ruled arson by a state police fire marshal, and the investigation by Uniontown police continues.
“We still have that $500 reward,” Sarver said. “Volunteers all chipped in to make that happen. I just hope the police find the arsonist here before someone gets hurt.”