Stories of Creative Reuse, DIY Guides & More

Salvage Fun at Betty Lou’s Downtown Emporium – a RE Store Rockstar

You may know that Betty Lou’s Downtown Emporium is a Bellingham shop specializing in fair trade clothing, jewelry and gift items.  But did you know it’s also a great place to get inspiration for decorating with salvage materials? Betty Lou’s owner, Betty Theiler, has been hard at work letting her creative juices flow as she built new display fixtures from recycled materials, chairs and doors (lots of doors) found at The RE Store.

betty lous downtown emporium salvage displays

Examples of her salvage decoration style in this photo collage include: greeting card displays made with a recycled door as the back, and scrap salvage wood for the racks; clothing racks made with old pipes and recycled wood; repainted doors scattered throughout the store used as backdrops; screen doors with the screens taken out to hang merchandise on them; a door with a mirror attached to it; an upcycled glass jewelry case; a repainted ladder used to display clothes; and staff favorite – a long shelf behind the cash register made from a few shelving units and doors combined to make a countertop space to organize all the little trinkets, tags, pricing material, pens, pencils, and paper that the staff needs to work the floor each day. All of these displays have been repainted by Betty Theiler, and a few were built with the help of her husband.

Check out Betty Lou’s Downtown Emporium – for your own salvage decorating inspiration, as well as for some great fair trade clothing, jewelry and gifts.  Info can be found on their Facebook page here.

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Salvaging a Dream

Mehrtens O'Donnell Family

Owners of Gypsy and Ginger Snaps, Lydia Mehrtens & Tim O’Donnell, with their two children, Avery and Saylor – in front of the espresso counter made entirely of materials  from The RE Store 

In fall of 2013, Lydia Mehrtens and her husband, The RE Store’s own Tim O’Donnell, acquired downtown Bellingham bakery La Vie En Rose, renamed it Gypsies and Ginger Snaps – a Charming Shop & Bakery, and reopened the next day. For Mehrtens and O’Donnell, Gypsies and Ginger Snaps is the resurrection of a dream. The couple had previously owned a bakery in LaConnor, WA that closed its doors in 2008 after the collapse of the tourist economy there.

Mehrtens, a dynamo of positive energy, was undaunted by that closure. Baking professionally since she was 15, she held on to her bakery dreams, while also running a shop at a local flea market collecting and selling jewelry, clothing, and upcycled furniture.  In 2011 she started baking again with a coffee cart attached to a small vintage store in Fairhaven. The café and the shop were brought together as one, and O’Donnell constructed the mobile coffee cart with materials primarily sourced at The RE Store.

coffee cart

The original coffee cart, O’Donnell built out of all salvaged materials.

Two years and two moves later they found themselves at the current location at 111 W. Holly St. In addition to repurposing several pieces of restaurant equipment for the new café, such as stainless steel sinks and pre-rinse sprayers for commercial dishwashers, O’Donnell, employed at The RE Store since 2010, uses his woodworking skills to create and refurbish tables, chairs and other pieces of furniture to use and sell in the shop. “I can’t imagine accomplishing so many projects and simple day-to-day maintenance at the bakery without the help of The RE Store” says O’Donnell. The espresso machine is the one piece of equipment Mehrtens and O’Donnell kept from the La Connor bakery – it is still in use today. Gypsies and Ginger Snaps is a lesson in how to salvage not only furniture and equipment, but one’s own dreams.

retail dressing room

Salvage-inspired retail fixtures at Gypsy and Ginger Snaps, including pine bleacher board shelving and galvanized pipe flange clothing racks (left). And the dressing rooms (right) are made from 3 solid panel doors, misc lumber + trim, curtain rod, mirror, recycled paint – all from The RE Store.

Gypsies and Ginger Snaps is open daily 9am – 6pm and can be found on Facebook here.  For catering inquiries, contact Lydia Mehrtens via email at: gypsiesandgignersnaps [at]

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Welcoming Matt Vaughn to our RE Vision Division Design/Build team!


We are excited to announce a new designer/builder has joined Eberhard Eichner in our RE Vision Division workshop. You may know Matt Vaughn from around the store and in his role as our Facilities Manager.  Matt came to The RE Store with over 20 years of experience in building and fabrication with a variety of materials. He gained knowledge in a wide range of manufacturing techniques at The University of Washington where he earned a BFA in Industrial Design and a second BFA in painting. During that time he began working in the building salvage industry in Seattle and developed a love for working with reused materials. Matt has lived in the Pacific Northwest for almost 20 years with the last seven of those in Bellingham. Matt‘s focus in the workshop will be on creating refined pieces that can be recreated, and using these items as a means to help build our green jobs-training program.

Here are a few examples of some Matt’s personal projects bringing together his love of salvage and audio equipment and show a bit of his style you will soon be seeing in the store (descriptions in Matt’s words):

amplifier collage

Roasting Pan Amplifier – This is an amplifier intended for the absolute purist. It is very simple electronic construction but with a high degree of quality. The top is an old roasting pan with its handle removed and turned upside down. The base and all of the milled black pieces you see in the later photos are all a salvaged countertop material called Paperstone. This material is made from highly compressed paper waste, so in this instance is “re”recycled. All of the acrylic and aluminum was also salvaged. Once I created a chassis I thought was interesting I had to do some modeling of the interior to ensure I could pack everything in (card/paper model, bottom left photo above).

Matt headphones speakerThese headphones (above, left) were also created with salvaged Paperstone. I really like working with this material as a sort of Ebony substitute. Most Ebony is not sustainably harvested and the Paperstone presents a great alternative as it mills and polishes to a point that it is almost indistinguishable from Gaboon Ebony. It even has a subtle grain! In this instance the increased mass (Paperstone is quite dense) also aides in vibration dampening and sound isolation. The trick was reducing the weight to a point where the headphones were comfortable enough to wear for longer periods but still have the headphones benefit from the increase in mass. This was done by milling out unnecessary material and creating a hollow wall.

These speakers (example of one, above right) feature salvaged Paperstone countertops and aluminum legs that were originally on stools in the dressing rooms of the old Seattle Opera House! Sapele and Mahogany over plywood make up the rest of the construction.  

You can meet Matt at the store on Saturdays. We also host a regular Open House for our RE Vision Division where you can discuss your own projects on Saturdays 11am – 3pm, with focused project demonstrations occurring on the third Saturdays of the month.  Get ideas from our latest projects or come with questions for yours – and give Matt a warm welcome to the RE Vision Division team!

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The Summer of Repurposed Fun

Summers are fun. Summers are packed. And all these sunny days makes one want to go to all the little neighborhood art and community festivals that pop up on the weekends. And some truly have more unusual draws.

In Bellingham, the month of August started with some “Repurposed Fun” at a few of these festivals. Eberhard Eichner, Lead Designer/Builder of THE RE Store’s RE Vision Division, gave the strolling public two occasions to contemplate the art (and craft) of reuse.

art throwdown door

August 1st – the 4th Annual Door Art Throwdown was organized by Allied Arts in the parking lot behind the Federal Building on Cornwall St. Eberhard was one of the four teams of artists given two hours to do a door make over (all were reclaimed and donated by The RE Store). All the door artists were painters, but Eberhard decorated a reclaimed solid core door with a collage of “real” salvaged items, both sides having been given a makeover. Hung in a jamb, it retained its full functionality after the materials were added, the front side included: a “flattened” chair, a small piece of rug, a bookshelf with a rather eclectic selection of books, a former kitchen cabinet door as window, a framed picture, a wall mounted reading lamp and, last but not least, a golf club. The working title for this side was “A Room In-Between”. The back side of the door was an abstract application of door handles, mirrors and sample picture frame corners. In a Cubist, Dada-esque, and very silly fashion, it vaguely resembled a self-portrait of the artist. Title: “My Repurposed Self in a Mirror”. At the end of the event all doors were sold by silent auction as a fundraiser for Allied Arts.



And then on August 2nd, the REvison Division partnered with Bellingham’s Make.Shift Gallery in giving their annual block party a repurposed “Built-In”. Eberhard took his tools and tubs of marginal, orphaned and overstocked RE Store material to the street. Similar to his regular Saturday in-store building demos, he constructed on the spot a gallery seat grouping for the Make.Shift main gallery space. Two Windsor-type chairs were “joined at the hip” by former bed frame boards, crib rails and arm rests. They were oriented in love seat fashion opposing each other. Two loose side chairs or stools of different elevations completed the arrangement. He used underpinnings of salvaged barstool legs, and for the seats, heat exchange grates.

Randomly selected hinges acted as fasteners, plumbing parts as accents and two rows of the springy type of door stoppers gave it “interactive” detail. Now, the tired or contemplative gallery viewers can rest their bones, while looking at art on the walls. The gallery seat will be a permanent feature in the Make.Shift gallery.

Both of these demos, and the resulting pieces, gave the public a further example of how, why, and where repurpose works. And, as the packed summer fades into fall, they will tell of the repurposed fun we’ve had and provide good summer memories to reflect upon.






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The Booths of Many Lives

All the materials at The RE Store have former lives and stories, but some have even more layers of history than usual. Our field crew picked up ten of these double-sided turquoise blue and burgundy booths from Pepper Sisters Restaurant as they were undergoing a recent renovation. Pepper Sisters got the booths from the venerable Bunk’s Drive-In in the early 90’s as they were closing.

booths of many lives

Once we had these unique pieces, we listed them on Craigslist (always a good place to see the latest and greatest in the store!) where the film crew for the Vancouver-based show, “Supernatural” found them a few days later. They quickly snatched up seven of them for use in the upcoming season as part of a hotel and restaurant setting. The set designer was excited to find out about The RE Store – and is committed to the booths being salvaged once again after they conclude their use on the set. Stay tuned for where they may turn up next… and come find the remaining booths (and others like them) at the our store.

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Volunteers Re-purpose in the RE Patch

Beth Linkinholder is our volunteer RE Patch Coordinator this year, (for those not in the know, the RE Patch is our working garden out behind the warehouse of our Bellingham store). Beth has been a wonderful addition to our RE-team – at first glance of our RE Patch  she noticed that our two monstrous compost piles needed to be processed and rebuilt. She took it on herself to recruit Five Whatcom Community College environmental science students that needed community service for their class requirements and two of her personal friends to come and take on this project.  They re-purposed wooden pallets to create the new-to-us compost bin (in photos below).  We wish we had some ‘before’ photos to show just how much this was needed – but suffice it to say, we are excited for the new order in the RE Patch. Beth will be planning other RE Patch gardening work parties throughout the summer – contact our volunteer coordinator, Ben Lewis, if you are interested in joining in on the FUN!

RE Patch compost bin RE Do

Thanks so much to the compost bin volunteer team: Jeff Hill, Jewell Hamilton, Rosa Posas, Sarah Bock, Micah Evangelista, and John & Stacy Crampton

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With Endings, Come New Beginnings

As many of you know, we’ve been going through some transitions at The RE Store. For those of you that may have missed the news, after much deliberation the Board of RE Sources for Sustainable Communities (our parent nonprofit) decided to close the Seattle store as of June 13th to focus our efforts on serving NW
Washington at our Bellingham location.

We are incredibly appreciative of the support that Seattle (and the Ballardcommunity in particular) has shown us over the past 15 years by way of shopping at the store, bringing us your donations, taking part in our workshops, attending our Recycled Arts Shows – and generally helping us spread the culture of reuse.

However – with all endings, there are new beginnings, and we are incredibly excited to pass on the news that the managers of The RE Store in Seattle have pulled together to open up a new reuse center – Ballard Reuse.  The store will ensure that the North Seattle community retains a used building materials store and will give the community the same service and commitment to keeping materials out of the landfill that they’ve come to expect. It officially opened June 16th – same location, same phone numbers and same friendly faces you’ve seen at The RE Store in Seattle over the last 10+ years.  We are happy to support this new reuse store and we wish them all the best.

10379531_1421967964751175_7137920475298043546_oFind out more about Ballard Reuse on their webpage:
And check out their Grand Opening on June 28th!  

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The RE Store Helps Brighten the New Nooksack Valley History Center

The Everson Branch of the Whatcom County Library System has long been interested in local history. When they received a Library Space Transformation Grant from the Allen Family Foundation, they decided to create the Nooksack Valley History Center within their library according to Eileen Shaw, the branch manager. They were on the lookout for fixtures that would give the center a classic and historic ambiance. Luckily, they saw a light advertised on Craigslist available at the The RE Store and “(they) knew it was a perfect fit for the old-time welcoming feel (they) were creating.”


If you want to explore the Nooksack Valley History Center just stop in at the Everson Branch (104 Kirsch Drive, Everson, WA 98247) or here’s a link to their library site as well:

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Ferndale Couple Creates Clock Tower Landmark


The Clock Tower House on Main Street in Ferndale, WA has become an iconic structure for the city. Owners, Art and Margaret Rojsza transformed it from a typical two story home into it’s current fascinating incarnation. The original structure is still intact and is incorporated into the new building.

This creative couple uses a variety a materials from many places including the Bellingham RE Store. In the linked youtube video, Art and Margaret take viewers on a tour of their project and show off some of the RE Store items (wooden panels, lighting, etc.) they’ve used to create their eclectic home.

In the Bellingham Herald in 2011, Mr. Rojsza said of the house, “The project is both a reminder of home (Poland, originally) and symbol of American possibility.” The RE Store is glad to help supply the Rojszas’ possibility so that they can turn it into a reality.

Posted in: RE Store Rockstar Project

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The RE Store becomes a fashion back drop for Frock Shop’s Lookbook

When asked why she chose The RE Store as the backdrop for her Fall 2014 Lookbook, Suzy, owner of Frock Shop (6500 Phinney Ave N), replied, “My husband and I have shopped at the RE Store for years. It was so inspiring, such a Ballard landmark, I chose it for the background before I had even designed Fall. I wanted something quirky to suit our vintage inspired looks, so perfect!” Our thoughts exactly.

The successful photo shoot explored the store from top to bottom in order to showcase the chic and vibrant clothes of Frock Shop.  It is always satisfying when local businesses can help one another out and this collaboration worked out wonderfully, as you can see above.

The Fall line at Frock Shop will be available starting in August and for wholesale inquiries:

We wanted to give a big thanks Suzy, Frock Shop, and everyone involved with the fun photo shoot.  For Frock Shop location, hours and fashion go to:


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