Second chances

Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore offers bargains with a heart

STORE WITH A HEART <br>ReStore Assistant Manager Cynde Cudney and Manager Greg Johnson check out a can of paint. The shop has hundreds of cans for just a few bucks apiece.

ReStore Assistant Manager Cynde Cudney and Manager Greg Johnson check out a can of paint. The shop has hundreds of cans for just a few bucks apiece.

Photo By Tom Angel

Cindy Schons comes to the ReStore often. Ever since she saw its billboard ad two years ago, she’s made the trek all the way from Berry Creek to 2288 Park Ave. in Chico to find good deals on anything from an air conditioner to mini-blinds (50 cents-$1).

“I can usually find oddball stuff,” says Schons, standing next to long rolls of carpet ($20-$50) on the polished cement floor of the ReStore warehouse. “I even bought a bathroom sink ($5-$75).” On this visit, she came in for a plug she couldn’t find anywhere else, but left with PVC pipe ($1), which a fellow customer volunteered to help fit into her car.

The Habitat for Humanity of Butte County ReStore is accustomed to the generosity of volunteers. With their help, the ReStore salvages functional building supplies and makes them available to the public at heavily discounted prices. The proceeds help finance projects by Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit that works with low-income families to build affordable homes here and abroad. Three Habitat houses are currently nearing completion in Butte County with the support, and even some supplies, from the ReStore.

ReStore volunteers help organize and price the vast array of new and used building materials donated by the community. Given the volume and variety of products available, it’s no easy task. They sort doors ($9) and windows ($16), stack tile and flooring ($1 a foot), hang up lighting fixtures ($3), sort bottles of adhesive ($1.25) and fill buckets with nuts, bolts and bags of nails (75 cents). They happily guide customers among the shelves marked with handwritten signs to satisfy the needs of construction and home improvement projects.

“I can’t stress how much people love it here,” says ReStore manager Greg Johnson, who wears big eyeglasses, a beat-up baseball hat and a seemingly constant smile. “The public support has been unbelievable.”

Builders, contractors, retail store owners and others donate their unneeded goods to the ReStore.

Photo By Tom Angel

The ReStore has successfully operated at a profit since it opened at its old location on Benatar Way four years ago, he says.

A large part of that success is due to the generosity of community donors, from both individuals and companies alike. Phylis Bremer, of Towne Carpet and Draperies, says her company donates overages and carpet remnants to the ReStore quarterly. Towne Carpet used to hang onto the extra product, but donating benefits the ReStore and “gives us more space,” says Bremer.

The current ReStore location on Park Avenue almost doubled its original space to house such donations, and now, at 5,100 square-feet, it’s still packed with affordable supplies. Staggered stacks of paint cans with multi-colored drips down their sides ($3) jockey with bundles of long, skinny florescent light bulbs ($1) and ceramic toilets ($10) for space. Dusty rows of creamy plastic switch plates (5 cents) bump up to cardboard boxes of brass doorknobs ($2).

“How much for the water heater?” a paint-speckled volunteer calls over to ReStore manager Johnson, while an interested customer waits. “Fifty?”

“How about 35?” Johnson replies, nodding to the grinning customer, who stands to save hundreds compared to a new model.

Johnson explains that the Restore has three goals. “Our No. 1 goal is to keep things out of the landfill. Number two is to provide building supplies to low-income people. Number three is to help Habitat for Humanity.”

As a result, businesses and individuals don’t have to deal with leftover supplies or going to the dump, home-renovators save up to 70 or 80 percent on do-it yourself projects, and Habit for Humanity continues to build homes with families in need.