Philly Reclaim, an architectural salvage store, is to leave its Tacony warehouse and is offering free products
Most Philadelphians, Greg Trainor noted, have little need to own huge power tools used for woodworking.
“But when we say it’s free, people show up and say, ‘Sure, I’ll take a radial arm saw and put it in my townhouse,'” said Trainor, who runs the salvage store. architectural and reclaimed materials Philly Reclaim.
His Tacony warehouse has been on a frenzy this week after he announced everything was free as the store was closing. His offering of doors, sinks, tubs, lumber, and other building materials was even more popular than he expected. At one point Monday, about 50 vehicles were lined up at the entrances to the store. Tools and equipment went fast, he said.
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Trainor is the executive director of the nonprofit reuse organization Philadelphia Community Corps and opened the store in 2018 when he was 27. Its mission is to deconstruct buildings in a sustainable way and divert materials from landfills to give them new life.
But by Monday, everything must be out of the 20,000 square foot warehouse. The owner of the building that the nonprofit is selling, and Philadelphia Recovery Must go.
Trainor looked at other warehouses, but faced the reality that they aren’t cheap in Philadelphia. The cost of renting warehouse space in the region has gone from a few dollars per square foot before 2020 to over $10 per square foot. The cheapest options Trainor has found cost $8 per square foot, well above the $3 the nonprofit has struggled to afford at the current location, where it moved to in late 2019. .
“The landscape has changed,” Trainor said. “We can’t afford Philadelphia anymore.”
The reuse association has had a hard time. “A long streak of bad luck,” Trainor said.
Its warehouse is at 5200 Unruh Ave., Section J, or for historical reference, directly behind the former Daydreams Gentlemen’s Club. The out of the way location was difficult.
Still, the price was right. The organization tried to work out a deal to stay, but were unsuccessful, and Trainor ran out of time to find another location. The Tacony warehouse is the third nonprofit home in eight years.
The move to the current space took place in December 2019, just months before the pandemic hit. Trainor got involved in the great outdoors because he wanted to organize events and fundraisers and teach workshops on topics like making furniture from reclaimed materials.
The pandemic ended these ideas before they were truly launched, and the organization was unable to restart the professional deconstruction training programs it had previously established. During the first summer of the pandemic, Trainor launched the Tacony Tool Library in the warehouse to rent tools to homeowners at low prices – an initiative that also ends with the move.
“It was this great experience of what’s possible,” he said.
Last year, a clerical error at the Internal Revenue Service stripped the organization of its nonprofit status for about six months. Individuals who hire the nonprofit organization for deconstruction work may receive tax deductions if they donate materials to the organization. About 60% of the money the nonprofit brings in comes from these arrangements, Trainor said.
But for six months, the organization could not guarantee deductions for donors. So this case stopped. Nor could the organization raise funds or apply for grants.
The only thing the organization had to go on, Trainor said, was Philly Reclaim. And selling solid wood doors for $50 and building materials that would cost $1,000 elsewhere for a few hundred dollars couldn’t make a difference.
The association fell behind in its rent.
And then there is the nature of the activity of the recovered materials.
“You’re really looking for the right person who’s looking for exactly what you have,” Trainor said. It’s part of the fun of the experience for customers, but the chances of success are low.
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Anyone looking for storage space in and around Philadelphia faces a tough market due to an insufficient supply of good-quality space and increased demand, said James Paterno, founder of commercial real estate company of Philadelphia Stockton Real Estate Advisors. Landlords are under pressure to maximize rental income for themselves and their investors and increase rents.
“Nonprofits are typically left out or at a significant disadvantage in this competitive landscape,” said Paterno, who represents several nonprofits seeking space.
He suggests that nonprofits try to identify owners who are willing to consider their mission and needs and work with them on costs.
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Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore on Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia, for example, is “incredibly fortunate” to have an owner committed to the nonprofit’s mission, said Corinne O’Connell, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia.
But, in general, she said, “the warehouse space along one of the main hallways is like beachfront property.”
Habitat’s store sells donated furniture, fixtures, and appliances, so its model is different from a place like Philly Reclaim. But “there’s definitely a market” for selling all sorts of second-hand materials all over town, and the two nonprofits likely share customers who can’t afford to pay the full price at stores at large area, O’Connell said.
The closure of Philly Reclaim “is a loss when you think about the recycling ecosystem in Philadelphia,” she said.
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The city has many for-profit and non-profit stores that sell recycled products, but they all specialize in certain types of materials. And for-profit salvage companies tend to focus on high-end materials.
“We all share a bit of the burden of saving stuff from the landfill,” said Karyn Gerred, founder and executive director of Resource Exchange, a North Philadelphia-based nonprofit that focuses on selling accessories, costumes, art supplies and more at reduced prices. materials he rescues from film and theater sets.
“I completely understand the uphill battle of trying to do what we do and maintain square footage” as a nonprofit organization, she said. “It’s just incredibly difficult financially. It is a very labor intensive and difficult business model.
But the current culture of “produce, use, throw away” is unsustainable, she said, and the city will need more people trying to divert materials from landfills to balance mass production and mass consumption. items such as building materials.
If Philadelphia loses organizations like his, Trainor said, people will be forced to dump building materials in dumps even if they’d rather save them.
Trainor isn’t sure what his next step will be, but he said he still has “absolute faith” in his organization’s ability to succeed. For now, he is concentrating on the immediate task of emptying the warehouse and directing the chaos to the word free creates.
“At this point,” he said, “I just don’t want these things to end up in a landfill.”
The store, which can be reached at 267-343-4242, will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily until its last, on Sunday.