The carpet is fresh, the music is bouncy and the clothes are cool.
Chief executive Catherine Meloy, wearing designer clothes, strides through, pointing out details in her new store. Merchandise arranged by size and color on circular racks. Signs dangling from the ceiling pointing out departments. A bright "kid's corral" stocked with toys and a television.
A Kohls grand opening? Far from it. This is the changed face of a Goodwill thrift store, and "It's more than a thrift store," Meloy says.
This is Meloy's new world. No more deejays, traffic reports and 60-second spots. The former radio executive has taken on a larger challenge: reprogramming Goodwill of Greater Washington, a 70-year-old charity that has fallen on hard times.
And it could be an example of what's to come for more charities.
Until recently, many nonprofit organizations might have steered away from a corporate executive such as Meloy, content to get their business-world advice from volunteer boards of directors salted heavily with business types.
But with government funding declining, the number of corporate executives moving to nonprofit groups is expected to swell as nonprofit boards look to corporate methods to increase revenue. The organizations need to replace a retiring generation of baby boomer nonprofit leaders, as well.
Corporate recruiter Paul Rothenburg, vice president of the McCormick Group, said he's getting a growing number of calls from nonprofits.
Charities "are looking more towards skills that people acquire in the for-profit community," such as strategic planning, fiscal discipline and leadership, said Rothenburg, who recruited Meloy for the Goodwill job.
Tanned and vigorous, Meloy, 53, spent 20 years in the Washington area radio business before moving to Goodwill in late 2003.
She was general manager of WASH-FM and WBIG-FM and senior vice president of sales for Clear Channel Communications' 26 radio stations in the Washington and Baltimore areas.
So far, she has brought more than six members of her staff from her radio days to Goodwill.
Her employees said she possesses a charming personality and a tough management style.
"She has this combination of sugar and spice that I've never found in a boss before," said Michael Frohm, who worked for Meloy as director of sales for WASH and WBIG before joining Goodwill last year as director of its recently revived commercial janitorial sales division, Best Kept Buildings.
Like many of the 166 Goodwill affiliates across the nation, the local Goodwill prides itself on using a more corporate model than other charities. It is one of the nation's largest Goodwill organizations.
The group, like many others, generates income for its social programs through thrift shops and cleaning businesses, which hire people from its job-training programs.
More than half of the group's employees -- about 380 people -- are disadvantaged, such as former welfare recipients and former substance abusers, or are mentally or physically disabled. The organization has 13 contracts to clean and landscape federal government sites, which require that 75 percent of workers on the job be disabled or disadvantaged.
But since the Washington Goodwill's beginnings in 1935, when it hired too many people and promptly went broke, the organization has suffered from fiscal woes.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Davis Memorial Goodwill Industries -- as it was called in honor of the benefactor who bailed it out in the 1930s -- launched an expensive suburban expansion of training programs and thrift stores and started its janitorial services.
But overhead costs soared, deficits mounted and the organization plunged into a financial crisis after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks slowed the economy.
To ease the financial crunch, the organization sold its nine-acre headquarters property for $7 million in 2002 and leased it back. It also shuttered its flagship South Dakota Avenue thrift store in Northeast (since reopened) and five suburban outlets and sliced 86 jobs. Chief executive David C. Becker left in early 2003.
"It was a very painful period," board member Glen Howard said.
When Rothenburg called Meloy about Goodwill's CEO vacancy, she was shocked to hear herself express interest.
"That came from the Lord," Meloy said of her response.
But her management style is decidedly more earthbound.
Moving at the same relentless pace as in her radio days, she gets up as early as 4:15 a.m. to pray and send e-mails to employees. Rocketing through 12-hour workdays, she scribbles constantly in her leather-bound planner, setting deadlines and detailed goals for staff members that she records on yellow sticky notes.
Her goal: to double the size of Goodwill by 2007 and triple the number of its thrift stores to as many as 25.
Like many corporate leaders, Meloy is not unfamiliar with nonprofits, having served on nonprofit boards for years. She is chairman of the Strathmore Hall Foundation, which operates the Music Center at Strathmore.
But as a nonprofit employee, her annual Goodwill salary of $215,00 is "a lot" lower than her pay at Clear Channel. And getting down and dirty doesn't mean rock-and-roll anymore. Meloy and her management team recently joined Goodwill workers in scrubbing down the Armed Forces Retirement Home in the District after a worker shortage.
But revving up the more measured pace of a charity to the velocity of a radio station has been slow going. Corporate employees are used to deadlines and fiscal targets, she said. "That is not necessarily the case in the nonprofit world."
Motivational posters line the walls of the Goodwill's headquarters. "Take fast and make it faster," one urges.
Meloy has doubled the size of the marketing department and brought in radio-style marketing methods, such as focus groups and touch-screen surveys.
But her former radio management team said many skills needed at the charity are much the same as at a radio station.
"Develop rapport, find your customer's niche, fill the niche, price it right and give 'em good service," Frohm said.
Nelissa Okamoto, director of special events for the group and a former promotions manager at WASH and WBIG, has borrowed from her radio days. She has set up booths at community fairs, offering hair painting, T-shirts and trinkets to publicize Goodwill. In exchange, Goodwill provides its cleaning services to the fairs for free.
The goals: "to brand our mission," said the bubbly Okamoto, and to raise awareness that Goodwill does more than just operate thrift stores.
A major focus has been renovating and expanding Goodwill's thrift chain. A store in Laurel is scheduled to open next month, and a Sterling branch also is planned this year.
Each store will be set up the same way, Goodwill executives said.
Nikki Priestley, who runs a contracting business in Prince George's County, poked through the glassware neatly arrayed on shelves in the South Dakota Avenue store last week.
A Goodwill regular, Priestley said she likes the renovated layout.
"I saw a lady dusting the shelves," she said. "That's unheard of."