The RE Store celebrates 30 years with anniversary party
April 23, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.
Music and conversation echoed from the alley between Kulshan and Meridian streets Saturday as community members joined The RE Store in celebrating its 30th anniversary.
The RE Store, which diverts reusable materials from landfills, is a program of RE Sources, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing waste and protecting the environment. At its Fountain District retail space, The Re Store sells refurbished furniture and salvaged building materials.
Tim O’Donnell, RE Store program development manager, said the anniversary party was as much a celebration of customers as of the store itself.
“We want to give back to the community who really helped support our program,” O’Donnell said. “I mean, the only way this exists is by community members donating materials to us. And then our service to the community is making sure that those items find a new home.”
At the celebration, dozens of people enjoyed a hotdog stand and beer garden, games of cornhole and live music by The True Stars and The Legendary Chucklenuts, and engaged with educational booths from Ragfinery, RE Sources and Sustainable Connections’ Towards Zero Waste program. In honor of its 30th anniversary, the store also offered 30% off all purchases.
The party’s vibrant crowd pointed to the impact The RE Store has had on the community over the last three decades. Founder Carl Weimer has watched that story of community involvement unfold from the very beginning.
Weimer recalls that in 1992 or 1993, Whatcom County was winning all kinds of awards for its recycling programs — but when it started looking at what was still going to the dump, it found that the highest amount of waste was from building materials.
In 1993, Weimer and others from RE Sources met with the city and local contractors to hatch the idea for The RE Store.
“It was kind of a big leap of faith for a nonprofit to take on an undertaking like that,” he said. “I remember long discussions with our boards of directors about doing it, because we knew we could fill a warehouse up with old building materials — but we didn't know whether anybody would show up to buy anything.”
As it turns out, people did show up.
Thirty years later, O’Donnell said The RE Store diverts an estimated 2.7 million pounds of materials from the landfill each year. With most items selling at half of retail prices, it also saves the community roughly $1 million annually.
While The RE Store operates a retail space, it also invests in programming. Through its Salvage Services program, crews pick up materials for free and also do paid salvage work and building deconstruction. Through its Community Jobs Training program, individuals from Opportunity Council, Work Source and Northwest Youth Services receive job training, with an 80% placement rate.
In 2013, The RE Store also launched its revision division, which focuses on transforming salvaged materials into like-new but unique furniture. A lamp stand made from the mast of a sailboat, table legs made of salvaged handrails from the Bellingham Armory building, and a lounge chair made with parts of an old Volkswagen Beetle are just a few examples of the program’s projects.
For long-time employee David Spangler, these programs have strong significance.
Spangler started at the RE Store in 1995 and has been on the books ever since, working for them on and off over the years.
“One of the things I've noticed over the years is just the incredible opportunities that keep happening and keep changing,” Spangler said. “I was able to tap into those opportunities, so I always felt like I was growing every time I came back. It was never a sidestep, it was never a backward step: it was a step forward. And it's really been fun to be a part of that part of all those changes.”