For the past couple of months, a handful of volunteers have been reorganizing a massive jumble of donated building materials accumulated over years in Interfaith Housing Services’ Avenue A warehouse.
After all the sorting, dusting, shelving, stacking, hanging and pricing, the doors opened Thursday on Builders Bargains: Etc@IHS, at 1326 E. Ave. A.
A joint project of Interfaith Housing and The Et Cetera Shop, the venture is offering excess home improvement materials for sale direct to the public, with proceeds from the store supporting the work of both organizations.
An open house for the 6,000-square-foot warehouse is set for the evening of Oct. 8.
“For do-it-yourselfers or Pinterest people, they’ll find stuff for cheaper cost and, in turn, turn it back into something useful and help the community,” said Jane Wagler, manager of The Et Cetera Shop / Ten Thousand Villages and a member of the Interfaith Housing Services board who helped develop the idea for the store.
Materials they already have on hand include doors, windows, power tools, appliances, wall and floor coverings, plumbing materials, countertops, ceramic tile, various hanging lamps and ceiling fans.
Hardware, from nails and screws to hinges and doorknobs, lines several handmade shelves.
“The warehouse is full right now,” said Holly Thomas, director of development at IHS. “We have people coming in weekly wanting to donate items to us, from bathroom sinks and countertops all the way down to light fixtures, interior doors and furniture.”
There will be “nothing trashy on the floor,” Wagler said, noting the agency already recycles remnants that cannot be reused. “We’ll only put out things that are presentable and have value.”
They don’t expect reselling the donated items to hurt donations, Thomas said, but just the opposite.
“Honestly, one of the biggest reasons people donate to us, when we ask them what encouraged them to do so, is that the items are perfectly usable and they don’t want to take them to the landfill,” Thomas said. “This collaboratively provides community recycling and a way to use secondhand building materials.”
It also offers building contractors and area home improvement retailers that may have excess or clearance stock a tax break for donating the materials for resale, since both agencies are registered nonprofits.
Interfaith will retain its first option to use any donated material for its projects, for rental maintenance or rehabilitating houses, Thomas said.
Another benefit of the new venture, Thomas said, is that it will allow some turnover of items that have been sitting in the warehouse, allowing newer material to come in.
Interfaith has been turning away donations for some time, said Clint Nelson, rental program manager, because of a lack of space.
Interfaith and Et Cetera will split proceeds 50/50, Wagler said, “putting those resources back into the community.”
The store will have limited operating hours – both for retail and for accepting donations – and volunteers will run it.
Therefore, besides seeking donations, Wagler said, they are looking for more volunteers.
“We need volunteers to work in the shop, to prepare and tag items,” she said. “Even if someone can only donate an hour to help set up the appliance testing area, we appreciate that.”
Work is continuing on space in the warehouse to accept drop-offs and to test appliances or electrical items. Eventually, donors will be able to drive to the northwest corner of the warehouse to drop items at a garage door, where they will be taken in, cleaned and tested.
“By volunteering at Building Bargains people will get hands-on experience in preventing waste and promoting reuse and repurpose, while helping make a difference in our community and bettering the environment,” Thomas said.
A volunteer orientation is set for Oct. 22.
“I’ve wanted a store like this as a branch for Et Cetera,” Wagler said. “I’ve seen the amount of waste building materials that come into Interfaith they just didn’t have space for, and it dawned on me: Why not do this?”
The boards of both agencies had to approve the concept for it to go forward, which they did in July. Since then, volunteers from both agencies have been working to get the project up and running.
“The inventory is there, the space is there, the need is there,” Wagler said. “I see great potential to serve the community.”
“One of the biggest things I want to let people know is this venture will help both our organizations and improve our community with rehabbing houses, helping people with housing needs and to live comfortably and safely,” Thomas said.
Besides the new retail warehouse, The Et Cetera Shop / Ten Thousand Villages has acquired the space south of its store at 22 N. Main St. and is working to expand into that space for its thrift store – adding furniture – and to open a tea room.
“There’s some serious structural work to be done” before it can open, Wagler said, noting that the previous owner removed a ceiling truss to install a skylight and the ceiling / second-story floor is sagging.
“We hope to expand in the first quarter, after Christmas,” she said.