• September 19, 2014

Former Cove H-E-B location eyed by Killeen charity

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Posted: Saturday, January 25, 2014 4:30 am

Operation Phantom Support, formerly the Killeen area’s Operation Once in a Lifetime branch, is looking for a larger facility to expand into this year. One site may be the Copperas Cove H-E-B building, which is listed at $5 million.

“Right now I am working in 7,000 square feet, and I am full,” said John Valentine, a retired sergeant first class who operates the organization.

Operation Phantom Support works to support veterans and active-duty service members and their families by offering everything from clothing to small household appliances at no or low cost. Its operations are funded through sales of its thrift store, grants and donations the nonprofit receives.

The nonprofit is located at 315 E. Avenue C in Killeen, but Valentine, who lives Copperas Cove, is hoping for a larger facility by the end of the year somewhere close to Fort Hood.

“We are going to eventually try and find a bigger place as we grow,” Valentine said. “The H-E-B thing is probably out of our scope because of the $5.1 million price. It will take years to raise that kind of money.”

Valentine said the fact that the organization operates a food pantry may be a problem for the retailer, which has a deed restriction.

Valentine opened the food pantry a year ago. It now feeds 600 families and affects about 1,500 people a week. More room would mean helping more people.

The organization already needs to replace its box truck and cold storage unit or turn down food donations when there is no place to store them.

A grocery, fuel and/or pharmacy can’t be located at the site, according to information from the property’s real estate agent Ben Edelstein.

Despite the price and other hurdles, Valentine said he is still going to try and talk to the Texas grocery store chain about locating at the site.

Another attractive feature about the H-E-B is the large parking lot, he said. In Killeen, Valentine said cars park in every space for blocks and people are lined up literally down the block waiting to pick up food.

Nearby tenants are complaining because there is no parking available in front of their businesses, he said.

Edelstein said the 49,000-square-foot building generated a lot of interest, especially from local entrepreneurs and businesses.

“We have a lot people that are entrepreneurs (ask about it) but its sheer size doesn’t fit their business model,” Edelstein said.

Edelstein has yet to talk to Valentine, but occasionally a nonprofit does take over such properties, he said.

Ideally though, the store would go to a national retailer or perhaps two, he said.

The building has been on the market for almost a year and was originally priced at $5.3 million.

“The handful that we have sold for (H-E-B) have taken more than a year and maybe less than three years,” he said. “It is a patience game.”

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