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Rethinking the ReStore

Rethinking how the ReStore presents itself is an effort to get shoppers to think beyond the individual parts.

The Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore in south Brainerd is based on a simple premise of reuse for greater economic value and environmental protection and as a way to help others gain their own home.

The ReStore has new and used items donated from individuals and businesses. Sometimes perfectly good furniture or household pieces may have ended up unnecessarily clogging a landfill. But the ReStore provides an option for a tax-deductible donation for one which may turn into a bargain for another. And the proceeds help Habitat with its main mission of helping people who are working for their own piece of the American dream of homeownership.

To help shoppers see the possibilities, the ReStore recently began creating its own showcase putting together many parts to create a whole living room or dining room ensemble.

“We hope this will show people we have everything they need for their whole living room,” said Mary Zimmermann, ReStore director.

The store, in an expansive space on Wright Street by the Brainerd Armory, carries a wide range of furnishings from building supplies to furniture, lights to wall hangings, cabinets to bathroom fixtures.

“For the creative person this is like the bonanza,” said long-time interior designer Marilyn Ismir, who volunteers at the ReStore and helped with the showcases.

In general, the ReStore sells its furnishings at 50 percent off retail prices. The cost of an item may be $25 or $225. Sometimes the savings is closer to 75 or 90 percent, depending on condition, material and thus resale value.

“We want people to know anyone can shop here,” Zimmermann said. The store is open to people of all means who are interested in a discount or in repurposing.

“We help people on a tight budget and we help our families at the same time and our donors get a tax write-off,” Zimmermann said.

The ReStore includes row upon row of windows, flooring, lumber and home fixtures. The store doesn’t carry dishes or clothing. But as for the rest, Ismir said they have a little bit of everything. The ReStore had whirlpool tubs that were never used and came Habitat’s way when a builder went out of business. They had boxes of new hardware and often get donations when a store changes lines. Another aisle included new windows never installed in a home. Other items come from homes that are being torn down, in some cases in order to make room for a larger dwelling. Hall said that’s when they get items like the six-panel pine doors or 2,000 feet of tongue and groove wood or brass light fixtures. Those light fixtures have been in demand lately as people turn them into bird feeders. There was even a basketball hoop.

With Ismir’s help on the design, Zimmermann and Scott Hall, ReStore manager, put together an entire dining room for $400 and a living room for $900.

Volunteers are always needed for numerous tasks, including pricing and sorting donations. The store offers delivery and pickup for large items.

Last August was the store’s best sales month on record, almost twice the average month of $25,000.

“The more we get, the more money we can transfer to Habitat for Humanity,” Zimmermann said. “The more we do, the more we can give to people that need it.”

RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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