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Doors, Floors and the Kitchen Sink

Habitat for Humanity ReStore recycles appliances, home goods to benefit home construction projects.

Pausing to examine the burners on a stove, Ann Terreri was hoping she'd find cabinets to complement her new kitchen.

"I heard this place was a bargain hunter's dream," said Terreri, surrounded by her children.

In the Habitat for Humanity ReStore on Richmond Highway, the walls are lined with doors, windows, bathroom fixtures, lamps, furniture, tiles, anything a homeowner could possibly need to fix up his or her home.

What makes the ReStore different from a typical big-box home store, however, is that all the items sold there are donated from remodelers, construction companies or other businesses who have leftover materials from other projects.

All the items are sold at discounted prices, and all proceeds are fed back into Habitat for Humanity's Northern Virginia chapter to further their home-building ventures, said Herb Campbell, the store's manager.

A former manager at a big-box home store, Campbell said he left the corporate world to open the ReStore in April 2004 because he believed in the service Habitat provides.

"The difference is, you can make a bigger impact here at Habitat," Campbell said. "Here, you actually see where the money goes. It goes to building homes, improving people's lifestyles and it helps the build their homes."

Currently, over 150 ReStores are in business across the country, Campbell said, including one in Manassas. Campbell said he hopes to see the store expand to at least one more location in Northern Virginia while he's in charge.

By selling the donations they receive at 50 percent to 90 percent off the original price, Campbell said the ReStore raised over $399,000 in its first year. Last year's sales totaled $553,000, all of which went back to Habitat for its work in helping low-income families build their own homes.

"There's a big incentive for companies to donate to us," he said. "The stuff they bring us would end up in a landfill if it weren't here. Plus, they get a tax break for what they give us."

The ReStore creates a winning situation for families aided by Habitat as well, Campbell said, as many will come to the ReStore to furnish their homes, putting money back into the organization that made them homeowners.

IN A TYPICAL WEEK, the ReStore can have as many as 5,000 customers, and with a steady stream of donations coming in every week, something new is always waiting to be found, like a set of wooden swinging saloon-style doors, a group of matching table lamps and a bright yellow bathroom vanity.

And yes, they do sell the kitchen sink too.

Prices are clearly marked on everything in the store, from the $50 floral print sectional sofa with three end tables to the $250 dining room set, complete with six chairs and two leaves. A 1-gallon can of paint costs $2.50 and a 5-gallon can is $5, a sizable markdown from an original cost of $75, said Campbell.

With only three paid staff members at the ReStore, most of the work there is done by a team of volunteers, said Crystal Cummins, the volunteer coordinator for Habitat. At least six volunteers are at the store every day.

"People who have a background in retail might like to volunteer here," she said. "They might feel more comfortable working a register than being out on the job site."

One of those volunteers, Steve Eggland, said he started at the ReStore after retiring last year, as a way to keep himself active.

"It seemed like a useful and appropriate thing to do, and it's consistent with my values of conserving resources," he said.

Calling the store a "Home Depot-Goodwill store," Eggland said he typically drives a truck to pick up donations one day a week.

"I get to meander around the greater D.C. area, picking up appliances, fixtures, supplies and tools," Eggland said.

Every once in a while he finds something to add to his collection of antique tools or furniture-making supplies, a bonus for his hobbies.

"People who work there are dedicated, hard-working people who share the values associated with recycling and altruism as it relates to people who can't afford their own home," Eggland said.

In fact, Eggland is such a strong supporter of the ReStore, he hopes to start a branch when he moves to Lincoln, Neb., in a few months.

Cummins, who likened the ReStore to "shopping at a thrift store" said part of the fun of shopping there is looking through the various items and trying to find a good bargain.

"There's all sorts of cool things here," she said.

While the ReStore might not have the same extensive inventory of a larger, chain home store, Campbell said the benefit is they carry furniture and appliances in addition to paint, windows and doors.

"I love everything about working here," he said.