Under the rays of an early-spring sun, a new era of "goodwill" began Friday morning as Goodwill of Western & Northern Connecticut opened its new Westport outlet at 1700 Post Road East.

The new 10,000-square-foot building houses a retail store and a drive-through donation center. It stands on the site of the former Peppermill Restaurant, which was demolished last year after it closed in 2007. Goodwill formerly operated a few hundred yards away in a 6,500-square-foot building at 1572 Post Road East.

"It's great to have a store like this in a beautiful environment," said David Turner, president and chief executive officer of Goodwill of Western & Northern Connecticut. "We really outgrew the old store five or six years ago. We've had such wonderful support from the people of Westport and shoppers and donors from throughout southern Fairfield County."

The new Goodwill store also includes a career center, which offers free services to job seekers, including access to computers, a fax machine and a telephone, as well as career counseling.

In its entranceway, the new store also features a mural that depicts items representative of merchandise sold in Goodwill stores. Those items were painted in Goodwill's trademark blue color by people in the agency's Transitional Employment program.

"It was wonderful to see a lot of our loyal customers here when we opened," said Shayna Holleran, the manager of the new store. "They're very excited."

Holleran added that the new outlet's career center offers an important economic and social service, by allowing her to refer applicants for Goodwill jobs to the career center when positions at the store are not available.

"The people we serve are oftentimes people with disabilities, and it's important for them to get training in a professional environment," Turner added. "This is all about our mission -- to help people become as independent as possible in their daily lives."

Goodwill's new store will employ about 50 people, a personnel increase by more than 20 compared to the former store at 1572 Post Road East.

By 9:30 a.m., scores of customers had already filed into the new store to browse for women's and men's apparel, housewares and books.

"I've been coming to Goodwill Westport as a donor and shopper for more than 20 years," said Southport resident Jerome Litton. "The new store looks fabulous. It's a great progression. It's a good place for both customers and employees."

Goodwill has operated in Westport for 50 years, beginning in a small store on Riverside Avenue and moving twice before opening in 1996 at 1572 Post Road East. Goodwill plans to sell that building, Goodwill officials said Friday.

The new outlet has about 60 parking spaces compared to a total of about 20 spots at the previous site.

The Goodwill Store at 1700 Post Road is open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Its career center is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from noon to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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