By Lee Shappell
Furniture that’s as good as new … at prices that can’t be beat … for a great cause, helping families and veterans who are on the street.
At the new Got Legs Furniture & Décor Store in Mesa, that’s not an advertising scriptwriter’s radio-ad hype. It’s real.
The brains behind the charity Bridging AZ had a place like this in mind for some time.
Their concept got legs earlier this summer when the charity, which is something like a food bank, but for furniture, opened its retail store at 2735 E. Main St., Suite. 1, on the southwestern corner of Lindsay Road.
Proceeds from the gently used, often designer-quality items sold at Got Legs go toward purchasing new furniture that is of size and weight appropriate for small apartments where social-service agencies place those in need.
The Got Legs showroom features dining sets, bedroom furniture, sofas, tables and décor items, including name brands like Kraus, Ethan Allen, Stiffel, Howard Miller clocks and even custom hand-crafted pieces.
“First, it has to be in good shape. When furniture is donated to us, we determine what to sell and what to place in inventory to give to those in need,” said Marga Fritz, a Bridging AZ board member. “Usually the determining factor is size and weight. If a two-person crew can’t maneuver it up a flight of stairs, or if it wouldn’t fit comfortably in a small apartment, it comes to Got Legs.”
The most unique piece in the store is a wooden telephone booth — minus the phone — that appears to have been separated from the lobby of an old hotel or train station. It comes with a Superman cape.
“It really is a fun place,” Fritz said. “Everybody is engaged with this mission.
“It’s all good-quality furnishings, at a good value, that anybody would like to have in their house. It’s funny, we have a huge couch in the back, sort of a convertible, that I’d looked at a few years ago. When it came in, I knew exactly what it was. It’s just beautiful. We do have nice things in the store, even children’s furniture, too.”
Gently used furniture has been donated to Bridging AZ by individuals, community organizations and major retail partners since Jim and Donna Piscopo created it 14 years ago. Bridging AZ, a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit, has distributed more than 260,000 items to 60,000-plus people transitioning from temporary to permanent housing.
The Piscopos would then sell remaining furniture wherever they could to raise funds, sometimes hauling it as far as the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, to sell at flea markets in the parking lot.
It seemed a lot easier to open a store like Got Legs. The Piscopos, no strangers to the business, had owned an antique shop in Scottsdale for years.
“We hope to raise $200,000 a year. That’s half of our operating budget,” Jim Piscopo said about Got Legs. “We’re not getting rich. It’s an effort of love, and it’s a lot of hard work. We’ve got people working in the warehouse at 114 degrees. We might do 15 apartments a week some weeks.”
Bridging AZ deals only with referring social-service agencies, not directly with those who will receive the furnishings. Among the agencies that the charity supports are Arizona Housing Coalition, Mesa United Way, Southwest Behavioral & Health Services, Lodestar Day Resource Center and DUET Partners in Health & Aging.
“An agency might tell us that it will need 30 apartments of furniture next month,” Fritz said. “We have to be ready. When folks get an apartment through an agency, there’s nothing there.”
Most people helped are previously challenged by homelessness, domestic violence, chronic life-threatening disease, substance abuse, joblessness or learning disabilities.
“Our name, Bridging AZ, says it all: It is a bridge,” Fritz said. “For folks coming in off the street, it fills a gap.”
Being one himself, veterans are especially close to Piscopo’s heart.
“We’ve bought about 200 beds this year for veterans,” he said.
Piscopo, an accomplished woodworker, has used his skill to craft pieces for sale at Got Legs.
“When Grand Canyon University was redoing its basketball floor, it donated the old hardwood to us,” Fritz said. “Jim used that to make all sorts of stuff. It’s kind of fun to watch that synergy happen. So if you see purple wooden coasters in our store, you know where the wood came from.”
Got Legs is open Thursdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Fridays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Online purchases of Got Legs’ inventory soon will be available through Offer Up and Facebook Marketplace.
For more information on Bridging AZ and Got Legs, or on donating furniture, visit bridgingaz.org. Monetary donations also are accepted.