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Salvaged, surplus building supplies a boon for Habitat ReSTORE shops

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Shelly Birkelo
Friday, October 12, 2012

— People are buying enough building materials at local Habitat for Humanity ReSTORES to pay for the construction of a Habitat house each year.

"The combined power of both ReSTORES has had a great effect on us," said Dave Thomas, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Rock and Jefferson Counties.

The Janesville ReSTORE, 320 E. Milwaukee St., opened in 2008. The Fort Atkinson ReSTORE, 1525 Summit Drive, opened in 2010. The resale outlets sell salvaged and surplus building materials.

After the Rock County and Jefferson County habitat affiliates were combined earlier this year, the size of the Fort Atkinson store was increased to nearly 5,000 square feet, which is about 1,500 more square feet than the Janesville store.

Traffic has almost doubled at the Janesville store since it opened. Thomas said the store is bringing in about $800 a month.

The Fort ReSTORE is selling about $6,000 of merchandise a month to those who live in area rural communities and tend to do more repair and patchwork projects, he said.

"As independent operations, neither ReSTORE was anywhere near even being capable of funding half a Habitat house build," Thomas said.

"Jefferson was building a house every two to three years. Now, we plan to build at least one house a year there," Thomas said.

The combined Habitat affiliate is building three houses—one in Janesville, one in Watertown and one just started in the city of Jefferson.

"When we're bringing in somewhere around $60,000 a year between the two stores, it's a huge benefit to us. But it also allows us to cut our inventory, increase our sales and serve communities better," Thomas said.

A delivery service truck moves inventory between the two ReSTORES.

Inventory used to turn around every four to five months, Thomas said.

"Now, we're turning it every three months," he said.

All materials are donated to Habitat for its ReSTORES, which are operated by volunteers in buildings where landlords have given Habitat good deals.

"Because our income is high and our expenses are low, it gives us the opportunity to put all that money into building a house," Thomas said.

Another bonus of the ReSTORES is they are keeping about 12 tons of material a month out of the landfills.

"We're strong believers in recycling and reusing, and if you can keep that kind of material out of the landfill and sell it to the general public, then you can make funds to build housing for local communities," Thomas said.

Last updated: 4:51 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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