The early years (mid 1990s) of The RE Store were full of outstanding opportunities including a burgeoning salvage trade. Bruce Odum, former general manager recalled that quick action was always necessary while out salvaging materials.
“In Mt. Vernon, we pulled out a gorgeous solid hardwood cabinet, but had to leave it overnight due to limited space in the truck. When we returned, the track hoe was sitting on top of the building in the exact spot that we had left the cabinet..”
Safety has always been a big focus for The RE Store, with the many potential hazards of salvage and used materials. Bruce remembered a safety training that had a bad ending. Lowell, a grad student at WWU was very clean-cut and well-spoken. He seemed like the right guy to run a basic safety course for us. When the class was finished, Lowell left the store. As he walked out of the building, he walked into one of the huge utility poles that held up the building’s soffit outside and broke his nose.
Safety on salvage job sites required vigilance as well.
“We always stayed out of identified asbestos areas, or so we thought. Fairhaven Middle School in Bellingham had these great rolled linoleum tops. We had to cut them in half to get them out the doors. After cutting them up, someone came and told us they had asbestos in them. The site was shut down and everyone had to go home. It turned out that the exposure was not enough to endanger anyone’s health but we learned a lot.”
“One of the cabinets in that same school was filled with cleaning supplies and was downright nasty smelling. We walked away from it and were working at the other end of the building. One of the demolition crews drove through the cabinets with a demolition Bobcat, mixed the ammonia and bleach in the cabinet, and released a cloud of poisonous chlorine gas. The whole building had to get evacuated.”
Bruce related a story about how job retraining was a part of the organization, even in its early days.
“Two Russian brothers were on a program where they could work for us, subsidized by a government retraining program. One was a diesel mechanic and the other had been a farmer. They didn’t speak more than a dozen words of english but they had loads of common sense and a solid hard-work ethic. The brothers wore thick wool coats and stocking hats all year long. They traveled with us for a big salvage project in the Methow Valley. The truck, Goldie, overheated. The Russian guy who was the mechanic pulled water out of a wild mountain stream as we enjoyed the scenic views.”
More tales of the early years of The RE Store to come in later posts.
Check out Part 1 – The Origins of The RE Store
Learn more about The RE Store’s licensed and bonded Salvage Services with free pick-ups on our website.