The Bellingham RE Store opened its doors in 1993 at the corner of Kellogg and Meridian, and the Seattle location opened in 1999. Jack Weiss, a council member for the city of Bellingham, recently recalled how The RE Store was created. When Jack was working as the Whatcom County Waste Reduction and Recycling Coordinator in the early 1990s, he hired Jeff Brown as a consultant to write the County Solid Waste Management Plan. Jeff Brown was then the executive director of the non-profit Environmental Resource Services (ERS), which later became RE Sources, the parent organization of The RE Store. According to Jack, Jeff was integral in his role as the brainchild of many of ERS’s early endeavors. The same could be said about Carol Rondello, who was Jeff’s go-to for both ideas and implementation. There were a number of others back then who also deserve credit in the evolution of what eventually became The RE Store, but Jeff and Carol carried most of the water. At that time, Jeff’s plan had the weight that state growth management plans do today. A few chapters of that plan provided the framework to counter the business-as-usual approach by the waste management industry. The plan was a couple of years in the making and was finally approved in 1994. The plan went on to become a template for other counties in the state. Jack marveled that he’d “never seen any plan on any subject that was as comprehensive and forward-looking as that one.” Back in 1991, Jeff brought the idea of a reusable material exchange operation to Jack after having seen the initial success of Urban Ore in Berkeley and Hippo Hardware in Portland. During the next 18 months, the two spent quite a bit of time fleshing out the idea to the point of searching the county and city for storefront sites for a county-run operation. The idea in its purest form was to accept materials from the public or contractors prior to disposal but also to scavenge the tip floor at the two incinerators and pull out reusable items. Jack hired ERS to do a survey of what was possible on the tip floor, because the true intent of this type of operation was waste diversion, and ERS knew their stuff. Jack decided to take $30,000 out of a grant award he’d received and apply it toward seed money for a material exchange through a Request For Proposal (RFP) process. They received two responses to the RFP: one from ERS and another from County Construction Recyclers (CCR—a demolition landfill off of Hemmi Road in Bellingham, which is now closed). CCR had a good proposal, but Jack chose ERS because of their philosophical understanding of the RFP purpose. The focus was on waste diversion rather than money. Carl Weimer, now a Whatcom County council member, had at the time become the next director of ERS. After Jack signed off on the contract, Carl secured the site on Meridian where The RE Store now stands and hired Bruce Odom as manager. Ultimately, the launch of The RE Store was the result of many hands. “The one regret I have about The RE Store,” says Jack, “is that it never did fully explore waste diversion opportunities on tip floors of all types of waste, but it did establish a great salvaging operation for building materials.” As we celebrated 20 years this month, we remember Jeff Brown, Jack Weiss, Carol Rondello, Carl Weimer, Bruce Odum and everyone else who made the creation of The RE Store possible.
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by Ryan DeSales, Seattle Field Crew Member
The RE Store’s Seattle field crew had the recent privilege of salvaging the stately, if not slightly dilapidated, G.B. Sanborn building on historical Ballard Avenue. The three story Romanesque structure was named in honor of Ballard businessman Gustavus B. Sanborn (G.B. to his friends) and opened its doors as a hardware store in 1901. Unfortunately, ol’ G.B. passed away shortly thereafter; however, his building has lived on in various forms, including stints as a department store and even a dry goods company.
Thankfully, the Sanborn’s future will remain secure. As of April, the 102 year old structure was undergoing an extensive and well-deserved retrofit that will preserve much of its original character. The project’s contractor enlisted Ballard’s own RE Store to salvage interior fixtures that were otherwise slated for the debris pile.
Items at the top of our architectural salvage list, and at the top of two flights of stairs, included the Sanborn’s original compliment of ornate cast-iron radiators, cast-iron wall mount sinks, fir panel doors, tin-clad swinging doors, and claw-foot tubs. For those of you wondering why antique claw-foot tubs are so expensive, it’s because they’re typically removed from the second floor of a building with plenty of rickety stairs and no elevator.
We began our salvage of the Sanborn by removing over two-dozen original fir panel doors complete with their true 4”x4” jambs. The field crew typically uses a reciprocating saw to cut through the nails that secure the doorjamb to the studs, but it’s sometimes preferable to do it the old fashioned way with a large pry bar. Using the pry bar reduces the amount of dust emitted into the air and eliminates the sparking and friction caused by cutting through nails and shims. Once removed, the door and jamb are screwed together for safer handling.
Because schlepping around two-dozen hung doors wasn’t enough fun, we moved on to radiators. After all, cast-iron radiators and stairs go together like peanut butter and jelly. The most practical way to move a radiator down a flight of stairs is by securing it to a hand truck. There is a brief thrill of mechanical advantage as you wheel the iron beast to the edge of the landing, but then you go over the falls, and it all comes down to good old person power. In all, the Seattle field crew removed over a dozen cast-iron radiators, but it felt like a lot more.
Inevitably, the process of salvaging an old building like the Sanborn will reveal bits of local history and even a record of changing tastes. For example, we unearthed two beautiful sets of sliding fir library doors that had been totally encased behind closets built out from the walls. Like the current renovations to the Sanborn, these changes may have been made to make the space more inhabitable or may have been an individual preference. Whatever the case, The RE Store was happy to be involved in saving a little bit of Ballard’s history, no matter how heavy it was and how many stairs were involved.
Come check out all the loot brought back from this historical Old Ballard Ave building – most of the items are at the Seattle store, but Bellingham received some of the 5 and 6 panel doors last week. Keep up with other ‘cool new things in the stores’ by signing up for our e-newsletter, Salvage Times here.
The RE Store in Seattle hosted a group of Builders, Developers, and Architects from Japan this week. They came to the states to attend the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodeler’s Show in Chicago, and had a two day stop in Seattle to see a couple of projects, and visit a salvage company – choosing us for their trip! A very curious group, with many questions about our being a nonprofit, our business model in general, building size, where we get the materials (donated by all of you wonderful people!) and how we go about pricing our materials (nothing too fancy, but definitely a heady mix of understanding industry standards and materials, historical precedent, and just plain ol’ experience). Several of them went away with some small antique-like token – a door knob here, drawer pulls there – one gentleman couldn’t leave without taking a sizable female-shaped sculptural piece for his garden back home! We had a great time swapping stories with them, and got a few of them excited about starting a salvage business back home. Thanks so much to Nariko Kawashima of Abodian Cabinetry, for setting this up with us and translating!
The REvision DIvision is building functional and affordable furniture in it’s not-so-secret laboratory. Doors, cabinet doors, reclaimed wood, used hardware and other materials are being upcycled into chests, tables, armoires, cabinets and other household items. Eberhard Eichner is the mastermind behind The RE Store’s long-envisioned program that got off the ground in the spring of 2011. These pieces are being designed and built locally and are flying out the door as fast as Eberhard can build most of them.
The Seattle Times reported on the new line of furniture – read the article, “Seattle’s RE Store makes junk work” from 8/28/2011
View REvision Division pieces in our showroom. More photos and info can be found about this affordable and beautiful furniture here.
There are probably a few people out there who don’t love a good pot pie, but we haven’t found them yet. Bryce Sharp and Nathan Lowe have made a business of them at Man Pies in Bellingham. The entrepreneurial spirit abounds in these two, including a love of building, making and inventing things. Bryce had traveled to Australia and discovered that pot pies can are sold everywhere. Interested in doing the same, he came back and grabbed Nathan to build their pie shop together.
Nathan’s do-it-yourself attitude goes back a few years. He remembers, “I was an overachiever in 8th grade shop. While the other kids were making fish bats, I was bringing home compound bows and kayaks I had made.”
One prime example of their creativity is the ‘Safe Table.’ Bryce tells the story, “There used to be a safe where the bathroom is now. We had a guy come drill it out. The guy thought that we wanted to save the safe’s door, so he didn’t drill it into pieces like the rest of the safe and set it aside for us,” Bryce said. “We didn’t know what to do with it. I joked around with Nathan saying that we should take the extra wood from making our prep tables along with some legs, and have the safe’s door be the bottom of the table. Nathan said ‘Dude, we should do it!’” It’s now a functional table for their customers.
They bought almost everything for their pie shop, Man Pies, that opened in July of 2010 in downtown Bellingham from second hand stores or on the web. Many of those items came from The RE Store. “Our biggest reason, to be honest, was cost,” Bryce said. Utilizing The RE Store meant that, “I could buy and install it myself and have to sell thousands less of cups of soup a day to pay it off,” said Bryce. “We went almost everyday and if we didn’t, we wouldn’t have all the pieces we have today.”
Their hot holding display case was a prime example of The RE Store’s synchronicity that many have experienced. “We heard that it came from Seattle. It sat at the Bellingham store for three days and we couldn’t pass it up,” Bryce said. “After we painted one of our walls, we found the display case and interestingly enough, it matched the paint on the wall! It was the deal of the century.” This happened many more times for the pie-crafting handymen during their start-up phase.
The prep table legs and additional support was all made from reclaimed lumber. Nathan related, “The legs and other parts came from lumber pieces that are banded onto plywood stacks when they are shipped. I cut them down on my table saw, planed them and made them up into tables for our kitchen.”
And how could we visit without eating? The crust was perfectly flaky and the filling was delicious and moist while fully holding together in your hand. Friendly ladies help you with a smile and they even sell gluten free pies. You can’t go wrong with the food or the decor in this compact little pot pie haven on Railroad Avenue.
Recycled materials for building Man Pies included: lighting, fixtures, sinks, hot holding display case, veneered solid wood door, plumbing, wiring, nuts and bolts, filing cabinets, heating ducts, base board molding, and other random needed materials.
The RE Store has been carrying MetroPaint at the Bellingham location for quite some time – but as of this month the Seattle store is selling this 100% recycled latex paint too! Cheaper than new, this 100% recycled latex paint is produced in Portland by the city’s recycling program. Since 1992 they’ve recycled more than a million gallons of latex paint creating this award-winning line of paints. It is tested for safe levels of lead, mercury and VOCs and can be used inside or out. We currently stock 8 colors with 5 others available through special order for $14 gal/$55 5-gal. Come find out more about MetroPaint – now in both stores!
Only Bellingham is currently receiving used paint at The RE Store. For more info on the MetroPaint Program, go to www.oregonmetro.gov (search ‘metropaint’).
There are rare people in the world, who stay committed to a passion for decades, contributing their time, energy, expertise, tools and sweat. Stephen Frank is one of those people, having worked and volunteered since 1986 to reuse and reduce waste in Northwestern Washington.
“For my entire life, I always have thought that you never throw something away that can be given away or reused”
He first volunteered in 1986 with Bellingham Community Recycling, the organization that would eventually found The RE Store. This group started curbside recycling pickup in Bellingham. Stephen contributed labor, helped maintain equipment, and loaned his own truck at times. He served as a board member for five years, advising and helping guide the organization, eventually making Whatcom County the first in Washington State to have county-wide curbside recycling.
Stephen was involved in the early conversations that Bruce Odom, Bill Sterling, and a few others members of the small builder’s guild hatched. Odom submitted a grant to the Whatcom County Solid Waste Division of Public Works through the non-profit organization that had renamed itself as RE Sources for Sustainable Communities, known commonly as RE Sources. A year later, The RE Store was up and running, with Bruce managing the operation. The new operation accepted materials and realized how much material was out there, just waiting for people to come salvage or simply pick it up. Stephen advised about materials and salvage on an ongoing basis, being heavily involved in projects like the large-scale salvage of Fairhaven Middle School and many others.
“I helped train the young kids. I knew how to take things apart quickly and what was valuable. They caught on quickly. I am not that smart, I have just been around a long time, and have made the mistakes.”
By late 1996, The RE Store was looking to move from its first Bellingham location at Meridian and Kellogg, close to Whatcom Community College. The store was housed in a building that was for sale, and was restricted to a month-to-month lease by the owner. A new location was found in the Old Town district’s former Bellingham Sash & Door building, owned at the time by Joe Orum. Stephen spent many hours doing plumbing, painting and electrical work, and helped the store open in time for Earth Day, 1997. In gratitude, The RE Store painted his name on the wall of donors.
Stephen wasn’t only involved behind the scenes. The organization began to coordinate hands-on workshops and Stephen taught several plumbing workshops, a window replacement workshop, and loaned tools for other workshops that took place. In the name of the wacky brand of fun that the organization enjoys, Stephen pitched in at the “Rockin at The RE Store” community events which hosted music, belly dancers, stilt walkers, beer gardens, auctions and the unforgettable “X-Treme Bowling.” Where else could you drink beer and throw bowling balls at old 3-gallon toilets, aluminum-framed plate glass windows, and funky 1970’s chandeliers? Check out a video of the party at the bottom of our video page here.
When it came time again to move The RE Store in late 2006, guess who was there? Stephen Frank installed drywall in the upstairs offices and did the finish work on the columns in the main store. Calling in help, he brought his friend Mark Feldhaus in to do the trim in the Sustainable Living Center educational space, almost entirely from old school bleacher boards. Taking a break from the dusty work of remodeling, he planted bulbs, gardening and weeding around the grounds at the new facility. Once again, his name appeared on the wall of tiles that honored our many contributors.
He now shops regularly at the Bellingham store for his remodeling business, sharing his warm smile with staff and customers whom he has known for many years.
This white oak confessional was originally built in 1885-90 for Saint Providence Hospital (Providence Hospital today). It was then moved in October of 1908 for the opening of Blessed Sacrament Catholic Parish, in the University District of Seattle. The RE Store’s salvage crew carefully removed it in pieces from its recent location – as robes storage behind the scenes at the church. The crew also brought in a walnut side altar table, originally built for the church in 1960. A beautiful English Gothic style Dominican Parish, the weight and seriousness of the church could be felt by the crew – lending itself to perhaps a more solemn salvage job than is typical. We aren’t sure if the confessional has gone through any rites or rituals to relieve it of its official duties but we are sure it has some stories to tell! Come see it and hear for yourself in the bay of The Seattle RE Store.
In the early 1990’s a group of building contractors in Whatcom County formed a small trade guild. Among many topics and ideas that the guild discussed was the idea of a venue for saving used building materials from unnecessary disposal. Bruce Odom was a member of the guild and stepped up to the plate to lead the project.
Bruce mused, “I was just the most persistent and positive about the idea.”
The group approached RE Sources, a non-profit organization that ran waste reduction education programs and had started curbside recycling in Whatcom County in the mid-1980’s. The board of RE Sources was bold enough to see and develop the vision to tackle the material exchange facility. Under the umbrella of RE Sources, the group applied for and received a state grant from the Washington State Department of Ecology for $30,000. Whatcom County Solid Waste administered the grant, with Jack Weiss overseeing the grant reporting and disbursement (note: Weiss is currently a Bellingham City Council member – June 2010).
Carol Rondello was the executive director of RE Sources when the grant was applied for. By the time the grant was confirmed, Carl Wiemer had replaced Rondello. Weimer was gung ho on the project, surveying waste at the transfer station and promoting the fledgling business. (note: Weimer is currently a Whatcom County Council member) Bruce was hired as the manager of the operation, setting up the framework that would allow the business to hit the ground running. He found a combination store front with attached warehouse space on the corner of Meridian and Kellogg Road.
In the weeks before the store opened in August of 1993, the group received a golden opportunity to salvage Bellingham School District’s Silver Beach Elementary. Odom acquired permission to store materials in the Meridian Street warehouse before the lease had been signed. Truck load after truck load of prime old growth fir doors, trim, textured glass and built-in cabinetry flowed in from the elementary school salvage project. David Bennink was involved in the school salvage, and was the second person hired after working in a paid internship at RE Sources.
The store opened with a rich assortment of high-quality material and created a buzz in the community. 75 percent of the school materials were sold in the first ten days of being open. Soon after, contractors and home owners started emptying their garages, storage units and pole buildings. Individuals brought used cabinets, windows, doors, fixtures and everything else you could think of.
“People would come in and say ‘You stole my idea.’ I think people’s common values had been waiting for the right time and formula to bring something like this into Bellingham,” said Odom.
Bruce reminisced about some of the wild things he saw come and go in his eight years managing The RE Store .
“People were always putting much items that were too large onto vehicles that were too small and too old. This one guy bought a 6 inch by 20 inch beam that was about 20 feet long. He showed up in a little pickup that was not the right rig to carry this huge piece of tree. At the customer’s insistence, we loaded it onto this poor little pickup and the beam caved in the roof of the truck. Unbelievably, he drove away. Happily, we never read about any accident in the newspaper…”
Coming soon – Part 2
Bruce Odom went on to start his own used building supplies salvage and resale business, Odom Reuse, in Grawn, Michigan, close to Traverse City.
The RE Store in Bellingham has only had to evacuate it’s store for emergency purposes on a few occasions. Most of them have been due to power outages. The RE Store’s Bellingham Safety Manager, Mike Printup was detailing store evacuation protocols for our staff meeting in late February, 2010 when Marj Leone, our field crew manager, recalled a strange and curious mishap that took place over a decade ago.
On July 2nd, 1999, only 3 weeks after the tragic pipeline explosion that rocked Bellingham, the Georgia-Pacific (G-P) paper mill and chemical refinery on Bellingham’s waterfront had it’s own large explosion. G-P had leaked chlorine gas into downtown Bellingham multiple times over the last 2 decades. A steam generator at the plant burst and injured four G-P employees. The blast blew out windows in downtown. The Old Town Cafe lost all of its large picture windows that faced onto Bellingham Bay and the Georgia-Pacific facility.
Less than a mile away from G-P, The RE Store was still located at it’s former Holly Street site. The sliding front doors were blown off of their tracks by the explosion.
The store manager at the time, Janet Marino, recalls, “The sliding doors flew off their tracks inward and this huge fir school archway that was leaning over the doorway tipped upright, swayed for a minute and came crashing down in the entryway on top of the gumball machine, smashing it. Nate Moore made an announcement that there had been an explosion on the intercom. I ran through the downstairs shouting ‘there has been an explosion, we are evacuating the building’ and someone knocked on the doors of the bathrooms. We locked the doors and went outside and agreed to go to Alice Panny’s house on F street because it was nearest. We waited until we heard from Carl Weimer (executive director at the time) what had happened, that it was safe and we went back. We weren’t gone for all that long.”
As Murphy’s Law would have it, an elderly man who was very hard of hearing had been using the men’s restroom and had not heard any of the staff’s inquiries for stragglers. The gentleman came to the front doors and found himself locked inside the building.
Janet goes on, “He was a little disoriented, I think, and didn’t know about the explosion or anything else after it.”
In the end, the gentleman was safe, downtown survived another industrial accident, and it became yet another odd tale in The RE Store’s colorful history.