In Twin Cities, Thrift Stores For Building Materials Ride The Re-Use Wave

By John Ewoldt
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) At “Habitat for Humanity ReStore” and “Better Futures Minnesota ReUse Warehouse”, customers can find a hit or miss assortment of kitchen cabinets, paint, doors, lumber, appliances, lighting, furniture, windows and furniture. Prices on these used goods can often be 50 percent to 90 percent less than new products.


Frugal, environmentally conscious consumers are discovering a fourth R, reduce, reuse, recycle and rebuild.

With most of the nation’s housing stock now 30 years or older, legions of homeowners are updating kitchens, remodeling bathrooms and updating lighting and floors.

In Minneapolis, for example, where the average age of homes is nearly 40 years, two nonprofits selling used building materials have recently opened a block away from each other, Habitat for Humanity ReStore and Better Futures Minnesota ReUse Warehouse.

“On the one hand we’ve got a person … taking out hardwood floors and cabinetry and on the other is a millennial who wants to give new life to old things,” said Nick Swaggert, vice president of business development and operations at Better Futures.

Many retailers are struggling to compete with the convenience and often lower prices online, but home improvement retailers like Menards, Home Depot and Lowe’s are sheltered somewhat because their items are often too bulky or too “hands-on” to order online. “Home improvement retail is very much a bright spot in an otherwise weakish consumer environment,” said Brian Nagel, a senior equity analyst at Oppenheimer.

With many homes over 30, trend experts expect homeowners to tackle remodeling projects as long as the economy remains strong.

Thrift stores such as Habitat ReStores, now at 875 locations nationwide, are riding the wave too. Sales at the new Minneapolis location, which opened in September, are exceeding expectations, said Pete O’Keefe, senior manager of operations at Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.

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