South Charlotte

Crowds flock to Ballantyne Goodwill store

The recent opening of the Ballantyne Goodwill created a stir along Lancaster Highway.

More than 200 people were in line at 8 a.m., said Holly Cooper, director of marketing and communications for Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont. The doors opened at 9 a.m.

At one point, cars were parked a mile down the highway. The store gave away $250 US Airways gift cards - donations from the airline - every hour.

The Ballantyne store is the 21st Goodwill store and donation drop-off center in the southern Piedmont, and it set an all-time opening-day sales record among those 21 stores, Cooper said.

"It was a tremendous turnout," she said.

The store has continued to see strong sales and long checkout lines, part of which can be attributed to new marketing strategies and part to Goodwill's evolving image, Cooper said.

Once known as a place where people in need could purchase secondhand clothes and household goods cheap, Goodwill has developed an additional customer base of people looking for great deals or items they can refinish, reuse or refurbish.

Bargain shoppers are learning Goodwill can be a treasure trove. Cooper said she's found designer brands like Prada and Gucci at Goodwill. Many people now donate items that still have price tags.

"The stereotype of Goodwill is a thing of the past," Cooper said.

In the last year, Goodwill has been reaching out to independent local bloggers it finds through Internet searches. All the bloggers have mentioned "Goodwill" in their writings, and those with strong writing and an interesting blog are invited to help Goodwill spread the word.

"Our marketing plan really went to a broader audience than we typically do," Cooper said.

Goodwill of the Southern Piedmont doesn't plan to stop its expansion in Ballantyne. In 2012, it also will open stores in Huntersville and Waxhaw. For more information and store hours, visit www. good willsp .org .

Pancake fundraiser

International House of Pancakes is giving away short stacks of pancakes later this month in hopes of raising more than $2.5 million.

IHOP began raising money for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals in 2006, said Angela Ibarra, association account executive with Wills Communications Inc. In 2011, IHOP raised $2.5 million, primarily from customer donations. This year, the restaurant chain wants to raise $2.7 million.

Children's Miracle Network Hospitals raises money for more than 170 children's hospitals across the United States and Canada. National Pancake Day will be held a week after Shrove Tuesday, a centuries-old observance that started when the English prepared for fasting during Lent, when strict rules prohibited eating dairy products.

To use up their supply of eggs, milk and butter, people made pancakes.

IHOP will celebrate Feb. 28 to allow for a full month of fundraising. On Feb. 28, IHOP diners can enjoy a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Ibarra said IHOP hopes guests will donate at least $5, the cost of the pancakes.

All donations are voluntary. For information about IHOP's National Pancake Day or to make an online donation, visit www. ihop pancake day .com .