New resale shop comes to town

Habitat for Humanity hopes to generate more funds for housing projects

Lynn Anderson, a 17-year resident of Montezuma County, is coordinator for the new Habitat for Humanity ReStore shop. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Lynn Anderson, a 17-year resident of Montezuma County, is coordinator for the new Habitat for Humanity "ReStore" shop.

From wedding dresses and veils to sinks and cabinetry, the blue corrugated building that once housed Bridal Mart, near the intersection of Highway 491/160 and Road G, is poised to reopen as Habitat for Humanity of Montezuma County's new resale shop.

The inside looks a little sparse now, but volunteers are optimistic the shelves will soon be well stocked with merchandise.

More than 800 Habitat affiliates across the United States and Canada operate "ReStores," shops that sell new and "gently-used" building materials, appliances and housewares to the public at discounted prices. All proceeds are then used by the affiliate to fund construction work, either new builds or renovations.

Lynn Anderson, a county resident in her second year as a Habitat volunteer, is acting as ringleader and organizer.

"I'm the only board (of directors) member who is younger than retirement age and without a career. I had some free time on my hands to coordinate," she said.

The local Habitat chapter became an official affiliate in 2008, and Anderson said several factors went into opening the resale shop now. The board, and president Gary Harding, wanted to raise the organization's profile by taking on more projects - something that takes money. Resale shops are typically a Habitat affiliate's steadiest source of revenue.

Other factors included the closure of Builder's Depot - a private business that sold low-cost building supplies - and a generous landlord.

The blue building is owned by Dan Belt of Belt Salvage, who Anderson said is giving Habitat six months of free rent as the shop finds its footing.

"That was absolutely key," she said.

Volunteers have been on the move lately, drawing on their combined handyman skills to modify the building's interior into a usable space. They've knocked down at least one wall, repaired and textured existing drywall and installed a garage door in the back - with help from Belt - to handle larger items.

The resourceful, can-do attitude was exemplified by Greg Kemp, a volunteer and former county commissioner hopeful, who on Wednesday sported a gray Carhartt vest with a "Git-R-Done" patch sewn on the front. He has served as jack-of-all-trades during the remodel - carpentry, some electrical and a bit of plumbing.

"I'm a little of many things, not a lot of any one thing," Kemp said.

The work isn't over yet. Anderson and her cohort are scrambling to finish shelving and general cleanup ahead of Thursday's opening.

Anderson asked for patience as staff learn to operate the cash register and credit card machine. She is wary of getting swamped with customers right away.

But the shop has already drawn interest. Beckoned by the distinctive Habitat for Humanity sign and logo, several people have poked their heads in the door assuming it was already open for business.

"If you build it, they will come," Anderson said.

Habitat resale shops accept items from contractors, retail stores and homeowners trying to downsize and streamline. Sometimes retailers of fixtures, furniture and appliances will donate floor models that are scratched, dented or discontinued but still fully serviceable.

Anderson said the store will carry everything from paint to sporting goods to "bric-a-brac and knickknacks," but added there is a certain threshold for quality - she doesn't want it to become a repository for junk. People should ask themselves if they'd be embarrassed giving their donated items to someone in person.

Donations should be dropped off, if possible, at the store during business hours. Unlike some affiliates, the local Habitat doesn't own an official truck to drive around town for pick-ups. Volunteers use their own cars.

Donors can receive tax-deductible receipts because of Habitat's 501(c)(3) status. Anderson requested that people not bring clothes, food, plastic kitchenware and broken appliances. She also discouraged books.

Ultimately, the store serves three functions: fundraising for Habitat, an affordable shopping outlet for consumers on a budget and removing items otherwise destined for the waste stream.

Anderson said the affiliate's main goals for 2013 are "getting the store off the ground" and launching a new round of Brush With Kindness projects, where front facades of bedraggled houses get a makeover; volunteers freshened up six homes in the last two years. As funding and momentum pick up, Habitat will prioritize remodels over building new homes from scratch, she said, given the number of vacant or run-down houses in Cortez. However, the organization did acquire its first parcel of land, on Par Drive, last July, with intentions to break ground one day.

To qualify for Habitat help, households must earn 60 percent or less of the Montezuma County median income.

"Our motto is giving hands up, not handouts," Anderson said. "All the labor is volunteer, but (the clients) have to partner during the work and pay us back for materials."

The affiliate offers flexible payment plans based on each client's income. One woman, for example, is slowly but surely paying her loan back at a rate of $25 per month.

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