Ladue News Feature Stories

Buy a Bargain, Build a House

For decades, St. Louisans have had an incredibly resourceful place to both donate and purchase building and remodeling supplies, along with home décor. Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis’ ReStore has two locations in the metro area, both well-stocked with products that help generate funds to support its own mission to build houses.

The first ReStore opened in St. Louis proper in the summer of 1997 and quickly outgrew its space. Five years later, the store reopened at 3763 Forest Park Ave., where it’s been operating since. Another location, behind a Sam’s Club off Manchester Road in Des Peres, opened in 2013. This location measures 48,000 square feet and houses building materials – from doors to cabinets to lamps to couches.

ReStore general manager Josh Vaughn says ReStore accepts “anything you could find in a big-box home improvement store,” plus new and gently used furniture and home décor. “We then resell the products to the public and use the funds we generate to help build Habitat for Humanity homes in St. Louis city and county,” he says of the nonprofit organization that builds and provides safe and affordable houses in communities across the nation.

In addition to accepting and selling these products, ReStore offers a deconstruction service for homeowners or businesses planning a large-scale remodel or demolition. A team of ReStore employees will come and carefully uninstall things the owner is having replaced, like kitchen cabinets, countertops and light fixtures.

“We’ll pick them up the same day [we uninstall them], and you’ll have a donation receipt within 48 hours,” Vaughn says.

He calls the deconstruction service a “win-win-win” because clients can have a space like a kitchen taken apart without generating waste or associated contractor fees, plus receive a tax write-off for the donation. Individuals may choose to make a monetary donation to Habitat, but there is no mandatory fee to perform a deconstruction.

“It’s popular because it’s such a deal,” he says. “We do one project per week and are usually scheduled four to six weeks out.”

Vaughn has been with ReStore since 2009 and has seen exponential growth since then. From 2013 to 2017, it has grossed more than $1 million, and the business continues to grow. The Des Peres location has been hugely successful, raking in about four times the amount of donation drop-offs as the St. Louis location. Vaughn attributes the success of the Des Peres operation to being near a customer and donor base – something its St. Louis sibling has been lacking in recent years in the largely commercial zone where it’s located.

For that reason, the Forest Park ReStore will be relocating to 3830 S. Grand Blvd. in late April. The new site will offer 25,000 square feet in a vibrant community that is buzzing with excitement about ReStore’s arrival. Vaughn says the South Grand neighborhood has been “awesome” and has even offered to put up yard signs welcoming the business to the area.

A typical day at the ReStore is anything but typical, Vaughn says. Since the store’s inventory changes each day, there’s no knowing what will be dropped off or sold. It’s developed a loyal customer base whose members want to see what will show up at ReStore every day. When the store opens at 10 a.m., Vaughn says there’s usually half a dozen people waiting to get in, along with a few people waiting to drop off donations.

Throughout a “typical” day at the ReStore, trucks come and go from the facility, dropping off new items and going to pick up donations.

“We do between 150 and 200 [donation] pickups per month, and that’s reserved for larger donations like cabinets,” Vaughn says.

Because kitchens are a popular remodeling project for homeowners, the ReStore typically has a steady supply of cabinets, which make up a huge part of ReStore’s donations and profits. Vaughn says the facility’s staffers price their gently used cabinetry at half of what other brick-and-mortar home improvement stores would.

“It’s a great deal, because cabinetry can get expensive,” he says.

Funds from efforts like the ReStore are crucial to the continued success of Habitat, and Vaughn says he’s looking forward to how the new location and continued growth of the Des Peres facility can contribute to Habitat’s progress. The organization will be building its 400th home this year – a huge milestone for the group and for the St. Louis community.

“If you want to help build a Habitat home without swinging a hammer, come check us out and shop the ReStore,” Vaughn says. “You never know what you’re going to find, but it’s always going to be a great deal when you find it.”

This story was originally published at Read it on LN’s website here.

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