Renovate, reuse, recycle

Discount prices drum up profits, aid environment

Ruthie Mundell helps to run a resale store. Her merchandise isn’t the predictable overcoats and baby strollers and slightly dented toasters that most people associate with resale. Instead, at the Community Forklift in Edmonston, Md., they’re selling oak doors and kitchen cabinets and clawfoot tubs.

"We are a thrift store for home improvement," says Mundell, outreach director for the 6-year-old store in the Washington, D.C., area. "Picture a Home Depot warehouse run by a nonprofit."

It’s one of hundreds of community-based retail operations around the country that have latched on to the green movement’s coattails by finding a way to keep tons of unwanted building materials out of landfills. And though the housing industry has been enduring some bad-to-horrendous years, many secondhand building suppliers say the recession has stoked demand for their products.