Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects is playing a big part of the rebirth of a retail space icon in the Queensgate Shopping Center.

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“Neighbors helping neighbors” is the mission tagline of a new store coming to the York area. Designing spaces that serve the York community has always been a key part of Murphy & Dittenhafer Architects’ mission.

Community Aid Thrift Shops working together with M&D, then, is a perfect fit.

“One of the reasons our firm went after this project is that it fits with what we’ve done in the past, being a community centered architectural firm,” says Architect Ryan Shank. “I think one of the reasons M&D was selected is our past work and how rooted we are in the York community.”


Good items at good value

Community Aid Thrift Shops has five stores now across Central Pennsylvania. It accepts donations of clothing, books, furniture, housewares, electronics, and some jewelry, then sells these items at bargain prices to community members who need a lower-priced outlet for these goods.

Once open, the greater York community will benefit from the 60,000-square-foot store, Shank says.

“This will be one of the largest thrift stores in the country,” he says.

Because of this, and because of where it will be located, this project is creating a buzz.

“People are always asking me when the doors are going to be opened,” Shank says.

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Re-purposing a retail icon

Community Aid’s new store will be in the Queensgate Shopping Center at the site of the former Bon-Ton, and before that, Mailman’s Department store.

“Both stores were York institutions. Everyone went there to shop,” Shank says, acknowledging the pedigree of the location is not lost on him while designing the new space.

He thinks the new store will live up to its predecessors.

“When folks come to shop in the future, they will have those expectations,” he says. “It will be a destination to shop.”

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Location will still be special

Shank says Community Aid is making this its flagship store.

“It’ll have polished, concrete floors, exposed ceilings, and lots of light so customers can see what they’re purchasing well,” he says. “Beth Reed, M&D’s operations manager, had worked at Bon-Ton, and shared her memories of working there.”

Reed worked in the corporate credit division, which at that time was on the second floor.

“What I remember most is being able to shop in the retail store every day during lunch – for myself, my family and my home – all in one place,” she says. “I remember many of the retail store staff, several of whom worked there for what seemed like their entire careers.

There’s also some other exciting benefits in the works.

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“We’re laying out a little bookstore in the rear, and there may  be a small café in the future,” he says. “You can relax while you shop.”

Even the warehouse area to the back of the store will be a source of community pride.

“There will be a sorting area where donations can be dropped off, inspected, put on the floor, or shipped to another location. We’re creating a large exterior canopy to protect people from the weather when dropping off donations,” Shank says.

There is even the potential to renovate the second floor into 30,000 square feet for offices and large community rooms.


Serving more than shopping needs

The new store will create 80 new jobs.

As with all its operations, Community Aid Thrift Shops will serve the larger community in addition to meeting shoppers’ needs for good quality, lower-cost merchandise.

Since 2006, the company has donated more than $11.6 million to fire companies, veterans groups, housing shelters, Christian organizations, and other community groups.

“They’re looking at specific groups they can partner with now,” Shank says, well ahead of the projected late July or early August opening of the York store.

Community Aid gets its inspiration from the scripture passage: If you know someone who needs clothes or food, you shouldn’t say, “I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat.” What good is it to say this unless you do something to help?

“M&D is helping further their mission,” he says, “to keep doing the good work they are doing.”