Community improvement

Renovation Station sells everything but the kitchen sink for a cause: Habitat for Humanity

October 08, 2006|By JONI GUHNE | JONI GUHNE,Special to The Sun

If Home Depot was smaller, less expensive and sent its profits to charity, it might look something like the Renovation Station.

A do-it-yourselfer's dream, the 6,000-square-foot Pasadena showroom, run by Arundel Habitat for Humanity, is packed with deeply discounted new or gently used home furnishings and remodeling supplies: brand-name windows, doors, cabinets, appliances, tables, chests and dining sets. There are boxes of ceramic tiles, tubs of caulk, bins of electrical parts and surprises around every corner, such as a beautiful marble vanity with double shell-shaped sinks.

"This place has great stuff," said Rita Victoria Gomez, a history professor at Anne Arundel Community College. Gomez has purchased appliances, windows, kitchen cabinets and ceramic tile for her rental properties, a bedroom renovation and an extension on her home. One of her favorite finds was a GE Profile drop-in oven for $175.

The bargains will be even bigger when the store, also known as the ReStore, holds a "honey-do" sale from Wednesday to Oct. 21. Customers can take an additional 10 to 20 percent off merchandise that is regularly marked 50 to 70 percent below retail prices.

"I can help you with your bottom line," said general manager Kevin Crawley, who credits word of mouth for the station's popularity. It opened on Fort Smallwood Road in spring 2004.

A former assistant store manager for Hechinger with 30 years in retail sales, the 46-year-old graduate of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County knows his business. He likes to keep an even split of new and used merchandise, keeps the well-stocked showroom spic and span, and the merchandise moving.

"If you don't find what you want today," he said, "give it a week."

The staff at Renovation Station will also take a customer's wish list and keep an eye open for a particular item to show up.

Tish Iorio, an Arundel Habitat for Humanity volunteer, was instrumental in developing the Arundel store. It's one of 200 nationwide launched by Habitat. Others in the region are in Gaithersburg, Alexandria, Va., and Manassas, Va.

"People wanted to donate to Habitat for construction," said Iorio. "We stored the items, and every two or three months we'd have a sale, but [the amount] got out of hand."

The solution was to open a ReStore.

The merchandise is donated from a variety of sources - builders, contractors, big-box stores seeking to unload overstock or out-of-season items, and individual homeowners. "When the guy off the street has a donation for Renovation Station that won't fit into his car, we will come and get it," said Iorio. "Merchandise comes from manufacturers when they make more than what they needed to ensure they had enough," she said, or when a model is changed.

For example, the Renovation Station received several tractor-trailer loads of windows and doors when a manufacturer wanted them moved out before taking inventory.

Volunteers are always needed to move merchandise around in the warehouse.

"Our customers are the general Harry and Harriet homeowner," said Iorio. "A lot are people who own rentals. They may have renovated the apartments three or four years ago and are now converting them to condos.

Savvy customers bring a list of measurements, said Crawley. Everyone has to make their own arrangements to get their purchases home.

Donating to and shopping at the Renovation Station saves landfill space, she continued. Iorio estimated that the equivalent of at least one house a month goes into the county landfill in Millersville.

"[The Renovation Station] has been very successful keeping stuff out of the landfill," she said.

And all operating profits from the Station go into Habitat's building program, which provides new housing for needy local families.

Renovation Station also works with Partners in Care and the county food bank to provide for people in dire circumstances, said Iorio. Donated toys get sent to Sarah's House, a homeless shelter in West County.

"It's like an octopus," she said. "We are juggling all the time. All the nonprofit groups are willing to give their names to other groups to find people who can use good stuff."

Arundel Renovation Station is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. For more information, call 410-437-7755. For donation pick-up, call the hot line: 410-437-7754.

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