Bend, Oregon, Thrift Store Shows How to Build

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SEE WHAT’S HERE–Since opening in January 1998, things at the Builders Supply Thrift Store have been moving along at a positive rate


The concept for Bend, Oregon’s, Builders Supply Thrift Store was a long time coming. The building materials thrift store, operated by the corps, has been open since January of 1998. The idea, however, had been discussed since 1990.

It was at a local landfill that Advisory Board member Dick Kelsen first got the idea. He saw brand new toilets–still in boxes–being thrown away. When he asked the contractor why he was throwing them away, the man said, “These were going into a hotel but the manufacturer sent the wrong kind. They told me they did not want to pay the shipping back to them and that if I would destroy them they would send the right ones.”

Though this is an extreme example of waste, surplus and leftover building supplies go to local landfills every day. Soon wastefulness became more evident to Kelsen. So he proposed the thrift store concept to the board. The board was open to the idea, but other projects took priority and the idea was dropped.

The store was brought back to discussion by Operations Manager Robert Vann. It took Vann about two years to get approval, lease space, staff and stock the store. Since opening day in January of 1998, things have been moving along at a positive rate. “I see this as a needed industry” says Vann. “Any community with a strong building industry can support a store of this type.”

The Builder’s Supply thrift store solicits donations from contractors, homeowners and building related businesses. A truck is available to go to construction sites and other donation locations. Many people bring in their donations and end up buying something they need for their home project.

“I have a rental property and shop here to save money on repairs,” said Tom Jackson. Tom is almost a daily customer. He knows that items change daily in the store and shops frequently to get the good deals. Tom is just one of a growing number of people who understand that buying used gets the job done and saves a ton of money.

He also likes the fact that his purchase keeps The Salvation Army doing what they do…helping people. The store has a wide variety of items available: windows, doors, hardware, paint, lumber, electrical, tools even automotive items. You never know what you will find, and inventory changes daily. The public has been very receptive to the store and the local media have done numerous stories on this “new” concept.

The Builders Supply thrift store has found a niche in Bend. Recycling building materials could be the wave of the future in thrift shopping. “Finding new and innovative ways to generate revenue is what’s needed to compete today,” says Vann. “I think we have found a keeper in this one.”

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