Restore builds community — and houses

Sales support Midcoast Habitat for Humanity
By Susan Mustapich | May 06, 2017
Photo by: Susan Mustapich From left, Restore Manager Jodi Maltese, longtime store volunteer Keiko Storin, and Habitat home partner Anastasia Snow.

ROCKPORT — The Restore on Route 90 in Rockport is doing a brisk business, selling gently used furniture, kitchen cabinets, sinks and tile, appliances, hardware, windows, lumber and more, all at a 50 to 70 percent discount off retail prices.

The store, which is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, serves as a continual fundraiser through its sales, for its affiliate organization Midcoast Habitat for Humanity. In 2016, Midcoast Habitat built two homes and completed a rehabilitation, This year, they plan to build another two homes, according to Executive Director Tia Anderson.

The Restore is entering its busy season, as warmer weather approaches and home renovations pick up. Local builders, businesses and individuals provide a steady stream of donated inventory. Midcoast Restore even runs a free pick up service on Tuesdays to collect donations.

Manager Jodi Maltese joined Restore three years ago. That year, a 2,500-foot addition was added to the building located at 799 West St. (Route 90) in Rockport. As the first manager dedicated to the store, Maltese has seen a steady increase in business, and has been able to increase revenues significantly, by focusing on operations and maintaining quality inventory.

The success of Restore depends on the people who want to donate items, shoppers looking for discounts, supportive business, and volunteers who operate the store, according to Maltese.

Last year the Restore diverted 483 ton of items, or nearly 1 million pounds, from the landfill, through donations and sales, Maltese said. Currently, it is entering a busy season, as home renovations pick up, and local builders, businesses and individuals provide a steady stream of inventory.

Donations to Restore are tax deductible, because the organization is a non-profit organization.

Typical shoppers are budget-minded individuals, do-it-yourselfers and investment property owners and managers, according to Maltese. "You can get things for a lot less money, and there are real treasures in here," she said.

Partnerships with businesses that donate products, and with builders are another factor in Restore's success. Lowes Home Improvement in Thomaston is a business donor, and discussions are in the works with Home Depot in Rockland.

Builders support Restore by donations and by loaning their employees to Habitat for Humanity home builds. Builders will bring in 10 doors, windows, and other large items. Occasionally, builders working on a renovation will donate an entire kitchen, including cabinets, appliances, and yes, even the kitchen sink.

Like Habitat for Humanity, the Restore runs mainly on volunteer power. Maltese, who is the store's only paid employee, manages a corp of 40 volunteers, who include longtime volunteers, high school students, and Habitat for Humanity homeowners/partners.

When Maltese stepped into the job, she "adopted a great corp of volunteers," who take care of the day-to-day operation, set the culture of the store, and have created a welcoming environment.

"I have a really strong, dedicated team," she said. "They treat it like it's a job.They come back week after week. I'm lucky to be able to spend my job with people who are giving back. It's an honor to be with them."

Maltese credits "the reputation of how great it is to be part of this program" for drawing the volunteers.

She also credits the volunteers for making the store fun. "You meet new people all the time, you get to help. You'll often hear a lot of laughter," she said. There are people who have a world of knowledge about building and are able to help with a project, when someone comes into the store. They've built their own houses, and now they are giving back.

Or, if a volunteer, doesn't know a lot about building, they will learn. Sometimes everyone learns together. Once, when Restore received a huge donation of tools, the entire staff learned about tools in order to process and price the items, she said.

The partnerships with builders have allowed Midcoast Habitat to double the number of houses built in 2016. Albertson Builders, Cold Mountain Builders of Maine, and Phi Builders and Architects were instrumental last year, according to Anderson. "We built two houses in Rockland and they each brought a crew," she said. "The houses were built in a week."

This type of "blitz build," is done by larger Habitat groups all the time, according to Anderson, but was the first for Midcoast Habitat. With the assistance of builders, Midcoast Habitat has been able to capitalize on the efficiencies of building two homes on a subdivided lot side-by-side.

An up and coming project, Tiny Houses for Hope, combines a partnership between Midcoast Habitat and Hospitality House, and a "Women Build" to construct a prototype tiny accessory structure to be used as a supportive shelter at the Hospitality House.

The project is the result of a collaboration involving coaching formerly homeless individuals through a year-long program to help them become sustainable and eligible for a Habitat home, as well as the need for transitional and year-round supportive shelter within proximity to jobs for Midcoast Maine’s most vulnerable populations.

From May 8 through 12, Midcoast Habitat's Women Build teams will construct the first tiny accessory structure.

The build will take place at the Hospitality House campus on Old County Road. To volunteer for this Women Build, contact Midcoast Habitat for Humanity at 236-6123 or email events@midcoasthabitat.org. For more information about the Restore, donations, pickups and volunteering, call 236-6123 or visit midcoasthabitat.org.

Courier Publications reporter Susan Mustapich can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at smustapich@villagesoup.com.

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