Shop the ultimate recycling project at Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore

Sale of donated, new items helps build homes for Austin families.

“When you walk in our door, we want you to go, ‘Wow, this is a restore?’” says William Stockton, Austin Habitat for Humanity’s vice president of retail.

The ReStore is full of donated building supplies — bricks, flooring, lumber, nails, light bulbs and doors. It’s also now full of donated furniture and clothing, household items and books. And then there are aisles of new things, still in sealed packages.

It’s a treasure trove of the unexpected.

The ReStore is one of the ways Austin’s local Habitat for Humanity chapter will fund building 16 homes for families this year. It estimates that 87 cents of every $1 you spend at the store goes to building a house.

Twenty-five years ago when the ReStore opened in East Austin, Austin became the first Habitat for Humanity location to open such a store. “It really took off,” Stockton says. Other locations have followed in Austin’s footsteps.

The old building at East Fourth and Onion streets had seen its best days years before — the staff had marked X’s on the floor to note the spots to put buckets when it rained — so in October 2015, the ReStore moved to its new location, a former Chuck E. Cheese’s at the corner of First Street and Ben White Boulevard. The building, which looks nothing like its past, now houses the Habitat offices as well.

Beyond building supplies

Even though it’s roughly the same size as the old location, the move allowed the ReStore staff to modernize the concept. Instead of just being about donated building supplies, ReStore added clothing and home goods and anything else that can be donated for a new life, with a few exceptions:

  • No toilets over 1.28 gallons per flush because of a city ordinance
  • No used mattresses or cribs or car seats
  • Nothing that has been recalled
  • No stained or broken furniture
  • No oil-based paints

You can drop off items at the store 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, or if you have a donation worth $350 or more, ReStore will pick it up for you. Schedule a pickup by calling 512-472-8788, ext. 215.

ReStore or recycle

Stockton estimates 90 percent of what the store takes in is either sold or recycled. Staff breaks down items into pieces and recycles materials such as wires, scrap metal, plastic, electronics, paper, cardboard and wood. Habitat just received a grant to buy a cardboard baler that will allow the store to bundle up cardboard for recycling. It will earn the store money instead of costing it money to dispose of it.

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If clothing doesn’t sell, ReStore donates it to organizations that house the homeless or help people newly released from prison start over.

The store is diverting between 2 million and 3 million pounds from the landfill each year, ReStore estimates.

Treasures in all different places

ReStore now has a team that is deconstructing buildings that are going to be torn down to salvage items of value such as cabinet doors, furniture, counters, appliances, water heaters and air conditioners. After removing them from the property, ReStore resells them in the store.

It also connects with local businesses to donate extra supplies or furnishings that are no longer needed after a remodeling project or after a business moves or closes. That’s why right now you can see many dressers from hotels, office chairs, school desks and file cabinets.

New, unexpected finds

While 70 percent of the store is donated items, 30 percent is new. When businesses order too much of something or have difficulty selling a particular item, they call the ReStore. Often a company will donate the items if ReStore will pay to move them. Some items it also buys at wholesale prices in order to have a well-rounded store.

“We want to make sure whenever you come in and shop with us, you’ll be able to complete the project you’re trying to do,” Stockton says. “We don’t want you to have to make two or three stops.”

Going, going, gone

ReStore pulls items that are particularly interesting, such as antique furniture, women’s purses, vintage Barbie dolls, a baby grand piano — “anything unique that will draw people in here,” Stockton says — and does a live auction every other week. The next one is 11 a.m. Saturday.

Pull up a seat at the Building Bar

ReStore also holds free workshops to help people learn construction skills or do a project.

Upcoming workshops and events:

Chicken Keeping with Austin Resource Recovery, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday

DIY Irrigation Systems with, 1 p.m. Sept. 2

Doggie Day with Austin Pets Alive — adoption drive, DIY dog toy demo, raffle prizes, pet portraits, local vendors and more, 11:30 a.m. Sept. 9

Lighting Workshop, 1 p.m. Sept. 12

Backyard Composting with Austin Resource Recovery, 1 p.m. Oct. 7

Ceiling Fan Workshop, 1 p.m. Oct. 10

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