Habitat Pinellas ReStore is a place to go for bargains for home

Published September 19 2013
Updated September 21 2013

Shawn Wyman of Pinellas Park stood in the middle of an aisle, hanging on to a white pedestal sink so it wouldn't topple over. • The sink — one of dozens she found in the organized chaos on the shelf behind her — was just one treasure in a warehouse full of them. • But it was her treasure.

And so, this would-be remodeler held tight to the rim of the sink, legs spaced far enough apart to give her leverage, as she waited for the return of the store volunteer who scooted off to the front desk to find out its price.

"I don't know how much they want, but this would cost $200 or $250 at Home Depot," she said.

Those words just barely got out of her mouth when the clerk returned with her answer: $40.

Sold, she said.

• • •

What is this place of incredible bargains for the home? The Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County ReStore at 49th Street and Ulmerton Road near Largo. People donate items to Habitat for Humanity; the nonprofit charity sells the donated items in some 700 stores in the United States and Canada, 60 of which are in Florida; and the money generated goes into building homes for those in need.

"We're different from most thrift operations in that our donated goods are almost exclusively large items. And we're not just about furniture and appliances, but also building materials like doors, windows, flooring, paint, cabinetry, plumbing fixtures, etc. Handymen, small contractors and do-it-yourselfers love hunting for bargains here," said Robin Macar, vice president of communications.

Wyman, the sink shopper, found out about the ReStore from her architect. He sent her there to find a sink, toilet and bathtub for a remodeling project at her home.

The most enthusiastic shoppers are the treasure hunters, people who come in frequently looking to see if something really cool or unusual came in. Those items don't stay around long.

Like a doggie coffin. It wasn't a small rectangle someone said was a casket for a dog; it was a dog-shaped coffin, complete with legs. It was quickly snapped up for $75.

A wood playhouse sold 20 minutes after it was brought in. A patio set in great condition came in the back door and, just as fast, went out the front. A rattan couch frame and two heavy 8-foot tall bookcases all had sold stickers on them. Two antique typewriters sold for $20 each in a flash.

• • •

On a recent weekday, paid and volunteer staffers were bringing in a complete kitchen that had been ripped out of a house. Beautiful Corian countertops were attached to the bases. Most people would not have ripped that out of their kitchens..

The kitchen pieces, like all donated goods, made a first stop in the processing center in the back of the store to be inspected and cleaned before being displayed for sale.

As they worked, store manager Doug DuPont talked excitedly about a big donation he expected in a few days — overstock from JCPenney.

Getting a good, steady flow of quality donations — including appliances, which are the most requested item — is DuPont's first priority. Think about whether an item can be reused before throwing it away.

For a potential donor, DuPont advises patience. "Don't be like those crasher shows on HGTV," DuPont said, "and ruin everything with sledgehammers. It doesn't take that much longer to uninstall it.

"And we'll even help with the demolition."

Patti Ewald can be reached at pewald@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8746.