HABITAT for Humanity expanded its popular ReStore to the North Shore this past weekend.
The store takes donations of new and used construction materials, appliances and furniture — most of which were destined for landfills — and sells them at vast discounts. The proceeds go towards local Habitat for Humanity projects, including homes for low-income families, and the charity’s administrative costs.
The Canadian-made concept started with Winnipeg’s Habitat chapter about 20 years ago and has spread to Habitat chapters across North America. After finding it has simply too much good stuff to fit into its Burnaby and south Vancouver locations, Habitat for Humanity Greater Vancouver held a grand opening for its first North Shore location at 126 Harbour Ave. on Saturday.
Beyond the regular contractors and construction companies dropping off their excess materials, the stores also find themselves taking large donations of new material from retailers, manufacturers and the film industry. Whenever a movie shoot wraps, crews break down the sets and there is a ton of material, including lighting, flooring, and furniture ready to be resold.
The wide array of donors means ReStores are stocked with everything from drywall to the kitchen sink — and some bizarre rarities.
“It is really amazing. It’s one of the things I love about the store. You never really know what’s going to come in. . . . We get a lot of really nice complete kitchens in. We get large appliances, lighting, floors, doors, windows,” said ReStore manager Tom Riessner said, “I’ve had coffins donated. I’ve had full phone booths. I’ve had vintage luggage carts from CN Rail. The weirdest thing I ever picked up was 1,000 six-foot cedar trees. We sold them all.”
The store is particularly popular with do-it-yourselfers who want to get a job done but don’t have a real estate developer’s budget, and folks who want to see their projects done in an environmentally friendly way.
“Pricing is really good. That’s what people love about us. Brand new, we sell at half of retail. Used material is anywhere from 75 to 95 per cent off depending on condition and age,” Riessner said.
Not only do the stores provide cheap alternatives, they are remarkably effective at keeping material out of landfills, Riessner said. “On average, a store our size will divert about 500 tons per year from landfill, based on our sales and probably an additional 150 to 200 tons with our metal, cardboard and plastic recycling. Basically, everything we get for donations would have gone to the garbage if not for us.”
In keeping with the store’s habit of accepting strange but treasured donations, Riessner found the store’s new landlord was first on the list in making an unexpected but affectionate, purring donation. “When he moved his office to the back, the cat was supposed to come with him but the cat had other ideas,” Riessner said.
Now, kind-natured Princess will be on hand to greet customers and keep volunteers company when she’s not napping in the store window. “The volunteers just gravitate to her when they come in the door. That’s gold for me. Volunteers really love her and so she’s become the unofficial mascot of the building,” he said “She pops out four or five times a day to see what people around the store doing and to get in the way.”