A Thrift (Home Improvement) Store with Social Mission

Construction and demolition debris makes up over half of our nation’s solid waste. That’s the problem that Community Forklift trying to solve with their business. They are not a forklift store, rather it is a thrift store that sells surplus, salvaged and new green building materials – with a social mission. Think of it as a combination of Home Depot and Goodwill thrift store wrap in one package.

So the other week I talked to Ruthie Mundell, Outreach and Education Director with Community Forklift, to get an insight from her about their business.

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Construction and demolition debris makes up over half of our nation’s solid waste. That’s the problem that Community Forklift trying to solve with their business. They are not a forklift store, rather it is a thrift store that sells surplus, salvaged and new green building materials – with a social mission. Think of it as a combination of Home Depot and Goodwill thrift store wrap in one package.

So the other week I talked to Ruthie Mundell, Outreach and Education Director with Community Forklift, to get an insight from her about their business.

Reduce, reuse, reclaimed is embedded into their business that provides affordable green options for people. If you look at their goals, these are what they are aimed for: to lift up communities by making repairs and renovation more affordable; reduce construction industry waste, reuse materials; promote environmentally-friendly building materials and method; and develop career opportunities for communities around.

Part of our inventory comes from deconstruction, in which a building is carefully taken apart by skilled laborers instead of demolished. This creates jobs, and can cost less than traditional demolition. Instead of paying dumping fees, property owners earn tax deductions. Construction careers are created through job training in deconstruction. The materials can be sold cheaply, so homeowners and small businesses can afford repairs – making neighborhoods cleaner and safer.

Ruthie said that for inventory of products, the store accepts all kinds of home building materials donations with few exceptions. Inventory of products varied depending on what they receive at that time. It could be doors, windows, lumbers, wood flooring, sinks, etc. – anything that you can find from home improvement or hardware store. Though, they’re not big box home building retailers, so don’t expect them to have whatever you need in supply at all times. Sometime donations would include brand new stuff still in a package.

People who get the best stuff are those who pop-in once in a while. The store have flex rules that allows prospective buyers to put item on hold, if they’re not sure about the measurements. In the event, they decided to buy, they can come back with their truck at later date, or store their stuff there in the meantime until they’re ready to get their stuff – for a maximum of two weeks.

Reusing building materials just make more sense in times like this, especially for everyone looking for affordable green options. In addition, we have less waste to deal with that would otherwise end up in landfill. Less waste help municipality saves money. And for builders, if they can avoid or reduce paying dumping fees, it lowers the cost of their projects.

When it comes to pricing of their products, Ruthie says “it depends on the condition and demand.” Normally items are priced around 40 to 90% below market value. Occasionally, you’ll find some free items, too. Like doors, dishwashers. Whenever they get too many items that they don’t have enough room for, they’ll put them on sale. More like fire sale. She said last month they have doors that were selling for $10!

CF do have a separate division that handles the sale of salvage art, of which their items are priced much higher – than the other type of materials they have in stock. But considering the price, it’s still a good deal.

Their business have double in size during recession. In the five year they’re in business, they’ve grown from 3 to 17 employees. That’s pretty good. In addition to creating their own green jobs, they work together with another organization for the training of green jobs.

Some of the success stories come from small remodelling business owners who are able to survive during recession because they get hired to do the jobs – at affordable rates. Thanks to the supply of products they could get from the store.

You can learn more about their green jobs training, how-to deal with challenges and customers’ success stories in this interview. Alternatively, you can also subscribe via iTunes.

Listen: Reuse green building materials

Author: Dewita

Co-founder Ecotwist Labs.

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