Columbia Habitat for Humanity finds new home, room to grow resale business

Rendy Hawn and Paul Golian talked to each other as they looked at a number of used doors arranged outside the Show-Me Central Habitat for Humanity on a recent Friday morning.

The two were among about a half dozen customers who had come to the Columbia facility to find affordable household and construction materials. They drove 100 miles to shop at ReStore, a division of Habitat for Humanity that sells used building materials.

“We are building a new garage,” Hawn said. “I told him about this place.”

The doors they were browsing sat outside of the ReStore facility because the building isn’t large enough to accommodate all the donated materials the organization receives. But it won’t be long until those doors and other supplies are under one roof; the nonprofit organization is moving to a larger home in north Columbia.

Empire Roller Rink closed earlier this year after 80 years in business, but the building will get new life this summer as the home of Habitat for Humanity and ReStore.

ReStore collects and re-sells gently used appliances and building supplies, using money generated from those sales to help build houses. In the process, the organization says, it helped keep nearly 350 tons of materials from winding up in landfills last fiscal year.

“I would describe ReStore as a thrift store with a focus on construction materials,” said Austin View, executive director of Show-Me Central Habitat for Humanity.

The current ReStore facility has two separate buildings, with the main one being used to display construction materials and the smaller one used to house furniture. Both buildings are so full of donated items that some supplies wind up outside the buildings. From decorative lamps to various colors of paints and tiles, and from hand drills to home appliances, the store offers not only building supplies, but also knickknacks and furniture.

“As you can tell — no heating or cooling,” View said as he gave a tour of the facility. “I mean, there is a little bit of heat, but not enough to really keep it warm in here when it’s cold.”

Customers Rendy Hawn (left) and Paul Golian look at used doors outside the Columbia ReStore shop. The store has so much inventory that it can’t all fit inside ReStore’s current facility. | Indah Setiawati/Missouri Business Alert

Founded in 1988, the Columbia Habitat for Humanity chapter has built 157 houses to date, View said. The organization helps construct and finance houses for low-income families and offers no-interest, 20-year mortgages. That model is made possible because the organization gets building help from volunteers and the homeowners, who are required to donate at least 250 hours of their time to building their home or other houses.

View said ReStore plays an important part in funding the organization’s efforts in Columbia. The decision to invest in the new building, which cost $815,000, was made based on a calculation that the store would continue to grow and generate more revenue.

“The ReStore represents more than a third of our funding every year,” he said, “and we use that money to fund affordable housing for low-income families in Columbia.”

He said the organization’s most recent fiscal year budget was about $965,000, consisting of close to $318,000 contributed by ReStore, $308,000 from mortgage payments, and the remainder from grants and fundraisers.

View said ReStore has grown about 9% annually. Although the new building will bring new mortgage expense — the old building was paid off — View is confident the organization will return to current levels of profitability within four or five years.

With a limited number of employees, the organization relies on volunteers to build the houses, operate the ReStore and pick up donations.

Brian Johnstone, who has been volunteering with ReStore for two decades, said he enjoys working there because it’s a rewarding and easy way to provide a good service for the community.

“I like the idea of recycling and reusing items,” he said. “And also, you know, I think it’s a helpful service generally to the public, as a lot of people would come here routinely, purchasing stuff for apartments or homes that they’re fixing up. That’s all good.”

Johnstone said he works four hours at the store every Friday morning.

“I guess what I enjoy is seeing people get things that they’re surprised to find here,” he said.

Soon, customers will find those surprises at ReStore’s new home.

“Besides having a nicer, cleaner environment, to have a store at, we expect to be able to receive a greater number of donations, appeal to a broader population base, and increase our sales enough to continue to support building homes,” View said.

Missouri Business Alert’s sustainability coverage is funded in part by the Mid-Missouri Solid Waste Management District.

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