Bishop Mark Seitz gave a blessing and was part of the ribbon-cutting for the renovated St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store on Monday, Sept. 25, at 2104 N. Piedras Street in El Paso, Texas.

Parkhill, Smith & Cooper provided complete design services and contract construction administration services.  Through a series of design charrettes with the Thrift Store Committee, PSC developed floor plans and conceptual renderings to maximize the potential of the existing store. The improvements comprised of renovations to the entire building, including exterior renovations and a new storefront along Piedras Street to optimize visibility into the retail space. The store includes a new main store entrance, open sales floor with a changing room, an operations area with receiving and sorting, utility room, janitor room, employee break room, manager’s office, and customer and employee bathrooms.  New windows were added to the office and breakroom to provide natural daylight. The basement was gutted and renovated to provide seasonal storage and a new dumbwaiter was added to assist in moving merchandise from the operations area to the basement.  New systems include plumbing, mechanical, and electrical. A structural repair was done to the basement framing.

Irma H. Trujillo, General Manager of the Society of two St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Stores in El Paso, said the volunteer efforts for the remodeling were a plus for the Central El Paso neighborhood. “It’s in the heart of El Paso,” she said. “It used to be a ritzy part of the city, and through the years it had gotten to be a little run-down. But over the past few years, several of the businesses on Piedras have significantly invested in remodeling and updating their buildings.” She said the fresh look of the thrift store has been uplifting for the neighborhood and visitors.

Unusual and visually pleasing articles perch on shelves from an innovative slatted wall design that allows for changing heights of displays. A cool rush of air greets visitors and the spacious store looks like a store one would see in newer parts of the city. The hope is that middle- and upper-income residents will visit the store to find one-of-a-kind treasures such as fine purses, glassware, collectibles and intricately carved furniture to buy. The revenue from these purchases, in turn, is used to help families in need that the society reaches through its 22 ministries in El Paso. The society provides low-income families with gift cards that they can use to shop at the store. Last year, the thrift stores gave away $48,000 worth of clothes and furniture to families in need.

“The whole project was entrusted to God,” Bishop Seitz said. “So it’s important to come to a certain point like this to say thank you to God.  Deepest blessings to all who worked on this. In them, we have a chance to serve Jesus and help others get to know him.

“I’m very grateful to Parkhill, Smith & Cooper because I  think anyone who has experience in building projects – renovation projects – knows that these things are very expensive and when you are talking about the work of charity, there are not many excess resources,” he said. We want to devote whatever we have for the poor. The St. Vincent de Paul Society will be more effective because we have this beautiful new place.”

Marcelino “Marcy” Trujillo oversees electrical and controls systems engineering at the El Paso office of Parkhill, Smith & Cooper. He said PSC is very passionate about building community.

“Part of that is pro bono services like the St. Vincent de Paul venture,” Trujillo said. “This project, because it was able to pull together many of our different disciplines – we had mechanical engineers, structural engineers, electrical engineers, architects, civil engineers, plumbing – brought together a whole lot of talent to do something good for the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

“We get a lot of wheelchairs in here, and we get a lot of people with strollers who need assistance. It used to be a struggle for them, just getting into the building. Now we have an ADA ramp and access to be able to come in and shop and look for things that they need.”

Along with the challenges such as removal of asbestos, architects discovered “hidden gems” PSC and Sky Ridge Construction preserved and incorporated unique, colorful tile on the outside of the building, formerly a Gunning-Casteel Drug Store.