By John Schaffner

Dave Sheley has reached back to his experiences growing up in a poor family and his business know-how from owning and operating 21 Wendy’s restaurants in east Tennessee to open the new Thrifty Living Discount Center in Sandy Springs.

Thrifty Living is a new and recycled items department store concept, which Sheley describes as something like “Big Lots meets Goodwill.” It is a hybrid business that treads between thrift and traditional retail, with a large showroom of new merchandise and donated goods.

The first Thrifty Living Discount Center opened in the former Staples office supply store space at 6650 earlier this month. Next up will be a store in Roswell in early 2010. There are also plans for Savannah and North Carolina and Chicago have shown interest in having stores.

The business exists to support local and regional ministries, as well as international ministries, in their efforts to empower people and change lives, according to Sheley.

This store, which Sheley hopes will be the first of 10-12 in Atlanta and will spread to other major cities, has partnerships with two Atlanta-based ministries. One is the City of Refuge, based in inner city Atlanta, and the other is Partners to the World through the Johnson Ferry Baptist Church.

Thrifty Living pays a poundage fee initially for donations of clothing and other assorted merchandise they provide. Then quarterly or yearly, Thrifty Living will pay the partners a minimum of 25 percent of profits after its operating expenses.

Much of the concept is an outgrowth of a change of life Sheley experienced in 1979. He thought about going into the ministry, but that didn’t work out. He and his brother were both in the food business—he with the Wendy’s restaurants and his brother started a company in Atlanta called D’Lites which grew up to 100 stores.

Sheley said he started getting too old for the food business “and my wife thought I ate too much, so I went into consulting.” He was hired by a ministry to go into the thrift stores that were losing money. “I asked how do you lose money with stuff that is being donated?”

He said he helped them put in controls, painted and up-scaled the stores “because we wanted more than just the thrift store shopper. We made them look like retail stores and generated over a half-million dollars for the ministry in less than two years,” he explained.

Through that, he started getting requests to do thrift stores. He said he knew people associated with the City of Refuge in Atlanta, which houses homeless women and children. They also have a large kitchen, which is used to feed the neighborhood, for catering and for a culinary school.

The Mimms family of Roswell-based Mimms Group, donated a 200,000-square-foot warehouse for the City of Refuge’s home.

City of Refuge had tried doing thrift store but it didn’t work in the heart of the city. That was the catalyst for the new business.

Sheley was introduced to Dick Gygi of Nashville, who had connections in Atlanta with business people interested in investing and giving up a portion of their profits to help worthy organizations.

For more information visit: For daily pickups of donations, call 404-303-8052.