Nonprofits Community Orgs

Restored for the First Time: Habitat for Humanity poised to open store for recycled building supplies

Tom Giffey |

DOORWAY TO DONATIONS. Volunteers work at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore in St. Louis in 2011. This spring the Chippewa Valley Habitat chapter plans to open a similar store selling new and used building supplies. Image: U.S. Marine Corps
DOORWAY TO DONATIONS. Volunteers work at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore in St. Louis in 2011. This spring the Chippewa Valley Habitat chapter plans to open a similar store selling new and used building supplies. Image: U.S. Marine Corps

Building or remodeling your own house may soon help Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity build more homes for local families who need them.

As early as this spring, the Eau Claire-based branch of the global home-building charity plans to open a ReStore, a donor-driven retailer of recycled building materials, says Aaron Czappa, the group’s executive director. Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity is in the process of purchasing the former Variety Office Products building, 145 N. Clairemont Ave., near the intersection of Clairemont Avenue and Menomonie Street.

“We’re moving forward extremely quickly. We’re very excited because we’ve been planning this for a number of years.” – Aaron Czappa, Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity, on the soon-to-open ReStore

Czappa says the group is aiming to open the ReStore by May 1 – a goal that will require help from many supporters and volunteers. “We’re moving forward extremely quickly,” he says. “We’re very excited because we’ve been planning this for a number of years.”

While there’s never been a ReStore in the Chippewa Valley, they’re been popping up around the country in recent years: There are about 1,500 Habitat chapters nationwide, and as of 2015 there were 860 Habitat ReStores, which had gross revenues of $382 million. (The closest ReStores to the Chippewa Valley are in Rice Lake and Roberts.)

All funds raised by the ReStore will go toward Habitat’s local mission: building homes for families who meet income requirements, have a need for better housing, and are willing to partner via “sweat equity” and mortgage payments. Since it was founded in 1991, Habitat’s Chippewa Valley chapter has built 43 homes within a 30-mile radius of Eau Claire. Most recently, last fall it completed a home in Menomonie for a family with five young boys who had previously been crammed into a two-bedroom apartment.

“We are looking forward to building additional homes and completing an increased number of home repair projects and workshops each year,” Czappa says. “Additionally, we are also excited to be able to use the store to become more visible in the community and spread the mission of Habitat for Humanity.”

The store will also help customers, donors, and the community as a whole in other ways, Czappa adds. Customers will get good used products at reduced prices; donors will save money through tax deductions and reduced trash bills; and the community benefits because less waste will end up in landfills.

The ReStore model, Czappa explains, is similar to that of donor-supplied retailers such as Goodwill and Savers, except the store will sell only construction-related materials, not knickknacks or thrift items. At the ReStore you’ll find furniture and appliances, as well as all manner of building materials, both new and used. Czappa says Habitat’s existing relationships with local builders, plumbers, heating and cooling contractors, and other professionals will help it gather used and surplus items.

Czappa acknowledges that the approximately 8,000-square-foot Variety Office Products building is somewhat smaller than an average ReStore, so expansion or the opening of a second ReStore, potentially in Menomonie, are options if the space gets crowded.

He also acknowledges that the ReStore will in some ways be similar to Hope Gospel Mission’s Building Hope, 2108 Western Ave., which also sells used and new building materials. While there will be some overlap in what is sold, Czappa says competition will be kept to a minimum, in part because of the size of the Chippewa Valley metro area. Furthermore, the Habitat chapter may explore ways to partner with other nonprofits: For example, products donated to the ReStore that aren’t building materials could be passed on to other charities.

While Czappa is looking forward to opening the store, he notes that a lot of work must occur before it happens. As May 1 approaches, Habitat will need many volunteers, both to staff the ReStore and to relocate inventory that has been stockpiled in several storage units. Habitat is also seeking a donated box truck or cargo van to make pick-ups and deliveries. (Until a truck is secured, donations will be accepted via drop-off, although dates and times haven’t been established yet.)

The project has already gotten several big boosts: In particular, Czappa credited U.S. Bank will providing Habitat with a grant and Citizens Bank in Altoona for helping finance the project. With the new building comes new expenses, so Habitat will soon launch a capital campaign to both pay the mortgage and build even more new homes.

Learn more about Chippewa Valley Habitat for Humanity by visiting cvh4h.org, where you can register for email updates, or by calling (715) 833-8993. To learn more about Habitat ReStores, visit habitat.org/restores.

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