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ReStore: the store that helps Habitat for Humanity build homes

By Steve Thomas

As the donations flow through the stores, the items on display constantly change. Photo by Allen Sullivan

I’ve just completed a ten day visit to some of the Habitat for Humanity ReStores in Florida.  And, while I was there on “official” Habitat business, the scrounge in me had to check the shelves for bargains. 

First let me explain that by nature I am not a shopper (except for tools, of course), and given that my wife and I have been focused on downsizing in the last years, I am not a collector either. Most of my trips to my local ReStore have been to donate items rather than to shop for them.  So it was mere curiosity that motivated me. 

No two ReStores are the same. The ReStore here in Maine where I live is a barn from the 1880‘s, while some of the ReStores I visited in the Orlando area are large modern facilities filled with merchandise. 

And, the merchandise changes all the time as donations of gently used household items and DIY material come in.   You never know what you’re going to find. 

I was tempted by the boxes of brand new nails for my air nailers I found in Osceola store at a fraction of their price in the home center.  But I wasn’t going to lug them back on the plane!  That store did have about 50 brand new cherry doors that someone with a little imagination could do something really cool with. 

The Orlando Colonial Drive ReStore had all kinds of trailer hitches and stuff for towing trailers that appealed to my “you can never own too many tools” mentality.  But obviously, I was not going to lug any of that stuff back either.  However for four bucks I did buy a tire gage for measuring the air pressure in the car tires because it was too good a deal to pass up.

Then there was the “toilet of the future” which had been designed for a Disney World display on the “bathroom of the future”  It flushed and the lid opened and closed with the wave of the hand!  Wacky!  I didn’t buy that one either. 

ReStore after ReStore all across Florida had a wide variety of furniture, lamps, rugs, old tools (I resisted), cool old signs, plumbing fixtures, hardware items, windows and doors, paint and DIY items, pet supplies (yep, really), vintage items, you name it.  And as the donations flow through the stores, the items on display constantly change.I met a number of folks on my tour who come in to their ReStore two or three times a week just to see what’s new. 

I visited a dozen stores on my tour, but there are over 750 nationwide.  The volume of merchandise flowing through the stores is estimated to be about 200,000 tons per year, much of which would go into a landfill if not re-purposed by the ReStores! 

Then there is the fact that ReStores employ more than 2,250 people. So, your local ReStore might look like it houses a vast collection of useful and sometimes weird stuff – and it might! 

But the ReStore concept is a triple win, for the environment, for the economy and for the mission.  Habitat’s mission is to build a world in which everyone has a decent place to live, and the Habitat ReStore is the store that builds Habitat homes.