Stories of Creative Reuse, DIY Guides & More

A cart of the community


We love it when great partnerships happen. When it is with our local business neighbors — even better. This vendor cart was a team effort built by Eberhard of our RE Vision Division and Bikesport owner, Andy, during a skill-building workshop last summer – sponsored by Transition Whatcom and showcasing salvage and portability for vendors to sell their wares. The cart was showcased around The RE Store for a spell and then found a permanent home at GOODS Produce stand. In exchange for the cart, GOODS owner, Cory, gave us store credit — which we are using to fill our greenhouse with a few starts and do some landscaping around our building. Thanks to our community of neighbors doing great things — and for this full-circle exchange!

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Salvage statistics to be proud of

salvage stats field crew collage

The RE Store’s field crew in action on a recent salvage project


We’ve calculated the total tonnage of building materials and furnishings that we salvaged from being needlessly wasted in 2014. Here’s what our crews lifted in and out of the trucks and the store last year:

  • 3,532,836 pounds of merchandise was sold for reuse (1766 tons)
  • Just over 24 tons of cardboard was recycled
  • Just under 24 tons of metal was recycled
  • Roughly 11 tons of porcelain was recycled
  • Leaving roughly 11 tons of material being thrown out that could not be reused or recycled

We couldn’t do this without your donations, and you thinking of salvage first when purchasing building materials and furnishings. Thanks to all of you for your part in helping us keep usable materials out of the landfill!

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Partnership Highlight: HERTCO Kitchens

The RE Store’s aisles are not only filled with items donated from customers or by the deconstructed used building materials that our salvage crew is bringing back from the field. We also make various manufacturing by-products available to the public. Over the years we have been developing partnerships with local manufacturers to reduce the material going to the landfill. We defray or even eliminate the disposal costs through regular pick-ups of unwanted materials by our salvage crew. These components are sorted out by the manufacturers through stringent quality control systems, but the flaws are often only minor, such as non-matching stains, off-set drill patterns or miscomputed sizes.

Now our new waste audit program is furthering this salvage process. In teaming up with our partners and bringing in the builders and repurpose specialists of our REvision Division we assist on site in evaluating and diverting those industrial byproducts to new uses. As a non-profit we are also able to issue a tax receipt to the manufacturer for the value of the items received. In all these steps we help to raise the “green” profiles of our partners, bring about a significant reduction to the waste stream and give you, the customer, quality and affordable building materials.

HERTCO Kitchens, the Ferndale, Washington, high end custom kitchen cabinet manufacturer is one of our oldest and foremost partners in this endeavor. We’ve been picking up materials from them since 2004. The cabinet doors, drawer fronts and panels of all kinds that are not making the “final” cut into Hertco’s fine line of cabinetry have become longstanding and prized components to our customers for a variety of uses. Their exceptional solid construction, select wood and lasting stains and finishes are outstanding attributes for reuse. It matters to us, as well, to save the time and energy that went into that production by HERTCO’s craftspeople.

hertco collage

For over 4 years now these salvaged parts have also become featured building blocks for a variety of furniture items built at The RE Store in Bellingham. Eberhard Eichner, the REvision Division’s leading material salvage furniture designer, brought over 35 years of international shop experience and several innovative re-use construction techniques to the repurpose world. New uses for the HERTCO material components have been introduced through his experimental background and prototypes, constantly changing showroom pieces and custom work. They have become the sides of chests, boxes and urns, bookcases, benches and seats, tables, reconstituted cabinets and beds.

With more builders and designers recently joining the staff of REvision Division and the development of a training program at The RE Store you sure will discover these doors and panels as well as the many other reclaimed parts from various partners in a wide variety of items, available for purchase either at the store or through our Etsy shop.

Of course, through your own desire to create you will imagine a good many more uses. We invite you to come and browse the aisles for “the goods” and always ask for the builders of the REvision Division to unveil some construction secrets.

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Customer before & after: display case to wine rack

Customer Dale McMurtrey bought this display case recently with visions of a new wine rack. All the various pieces were purchased at The RE Store (with the exception of the legs), which Dale then finished with chalk paint and sanded for a distressed look.  Great DIY job, Dale!

dale wine bar

Have your own before & after project you’d like to show off?  Send us your pics!  bray [at]

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Partnership is a Win-Win for Local Manufacturer and The RE Store

The RE Store has had some great partners in our 20 years of business, helping us divert materials that would otherwise go to the landfill. These partnerships have allowed consistent material supply flows, benefiting both customers and our RE Vision Division – and in turn saving the partnering company the cost of disposing those materials. 2014 brought us an amazing new partner in Itek Energy. Bellingham-based Itek Energy is Washington state’s largest manufacturer of solar panels and inverters. Rapidly helping grow Washington’s solar usage while providing jobs for graduates of Bellingham Technical College’s electronics program, they have gone from just six employees when they began in 2009, to over 35 in just a few short years. In that time their solar panel production has grown from 25 panels per day to over 300.

Itek Energy is very selective with the tempered glass they use to cover their solar panels. The glass needs to live up to their 30-year warranty, so after slow examination under intense light, any panels with minor chips or imperfections are discarded. Instead of disposing of them into a dumpster, since April 2014, Itek Energy has been donating the glass to The RE Store at a rate of 90 to 200 sheets per month. That saves them disposal fees and labor, while giving The RE Store up to $3600 in resale value per month.


Greenhouse prototype, created by Matt Vaughn, designer/builder, RE Vision Division



Having this unique and consistent manufacturing by-product has allowed us to explore new designs and get creative in our RE Vision Division. With the help of some seed money granted to us by Washington Educational Credit Union, we’ve designed and developed a greenhouse prototype. You may have seen the greenhouse out in the parking lot, in fact. While this greenhouse was built to sell,it is also meant inspire others to think about how to use this unique manufacturing by-product we have readily available in the store.


This greenhouse was built with 18 panels of the Itek Energy solar panel glass by a regular customer of The RE Store.

Itek Energy and other partners allow the RE Vision Division to perform the core mission of the program: Divert, Inspire, Educate, and Partner with the community. We can’t wait to identify more commercial partners with whom we can re-define waste.

Do you have a readily available manufacturing by-product?  Contact Kurt Gisclair (kurtg [at] about a partnership to reduce your cost and waste while getting tax benefits for your business.

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Volunteers of 2014 – We Couldn’t Have Done it Without You!

“When I started in this position a little over a year ago, I just hoped that we could help people in our community in some way. I was confident that we would be able to educate our trainees with skill-building, but realized over time we’d also be helping them become advocates for our environment, too. What I also recognized along the way is that our environment is not just the rivers, lakes, and oceans – it is the people as well.”
– Ben Lewis – Volunteer & Jobs Training Manager, The RE Store

Our Volunteer & Jobs Training Manager, Ben Lewis, with two of our valuable 2014 trainees – Frank (left) and Carlos (right)

One of the things we’re most proud of here at The RE Store from 2014 is our growing Jobs Training program, providing skills, confidence, and a future for so many individuals.

In 2014 we had:

 10 Trainees who worked a total of 1210 hours.

 91 Volunteers who worked a total of 1512 hours.

 and 123 Community Service Volunteers who worked a total of 2409 hours!

As they’ve gained a broad range of skills – everything from general store organizational tasks and proper use of tools, to building repurposed items for our RE Vision Division – they’ve also enjoyed the bonus of giving back to our broader community. Thank you to each and every one of those trainees and volunteers we’ve had in the store this past year!  We couldn’t have done it without you.

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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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