Photo by Peggy Sturdivant.
Ballard Reuse's Pat Finn Coven in front of bleacher boards.
At Large in Ballard: And They’re Back
By Peggy Sturdivant
I love sharing good news. It’s true that the Ballard location of RE Store is no more but the doors are now open at Ballard Reuse. Longtime employees Pat Finn Coven and Joel Blaschke have managed to create a new business on the same site, with same hours, and the same emphasis on culling the reusable from structures to keep it from the landfill. Long live Ballard Reuse.
Every item in the building has a story and the same is true of the new business on the old site. Ballard’s RE Store was the Seattle location of a Bellingham-based non-profit; the retail arm of RE Sources for Sustainable Communities. The Ballard location opened in 1999 just a few blocks northeast of the Ballard Bridge and chugged along for 15 years, overstuffed with salvage materials.
Since 1999 there hasn’t been any breathing time to rearrange the warehouse of doors, furniture, windows or the rooms of fixtures, knobs, toilets. The RE Store received and dispatched tons of second (or maybe fifth) use products: confessionals, Frederick & Nelson cases, the remnants of probably every Seattle school ever rebuilt. (Our upstairs bathroom vanities were part of Garfield’s Chemistry lab).
But like an overfilled basement the merchandise had not been cleared in a while; the contents reorganized. Then the parent company decided to focus on their Bellingham location and let the Ballard one go. That’s when Operations Manager Pat Finn Coven, a 14-year RE Store employee realized merchandise was one thing, but he was another. He couldn’t let go.
For Finn Coven, co-owner Blaschke and on-site REvisionist furniture maker James Taylor, the mission of RE Store had become their passion. One only needs to look at the Ballard skyline to see the building boom. With the boom comes salvage. With rising home prices comes renovation and remodeling, and an increasing need for materials.
The employees got official word about the store’s closure on April 22nd, with a proposed closing date of May 31st. Finn Coven, who is a Ballard family man within walking distance of the store, took a look at his resume. But he didn’t want to do anything else, especially not with something like Shoreline Community College about to take down all of their bleachers. They now have over 7500 feet of Douglas fir in stock and 10,000 feet of Southern Yellow Pine on its way, “People salivate over this stuff,” Finn Coven said, standing in front of just one stack.
Walking through relatively bare aisles (meaning the products are visible) I was salivating, in particular over recent arrivals from Holy Names Academy although I was impressed with the Shoreline scoreboard. When it comes to wanting to take objects home to his 1910 Craftsman Finn Coven admits, “I struggle.” Especially with the arrival of young children he tries to limit his acquisitions to actual projects, rather than speculative desire.
It was May 21st when the new ownership plan started to look possible. The last thirty days have been a scramble as longtime and first time customers headed into the woodwork, instead of out of it, mobbing the location and helping to clear the jumble very efficiently. With the support of landlord Barry Hawley, RE Store and many, many customers Finn Coven and Blaschke have gone through a year’s worth of business planning and set-up in a month. They have explored non-profit partnerships, established a new for-profit business entity and navigated all the details of phone lines, utilities and scores of other details. Then they had one weekend off between RE Store closing its doors on June 13th and reopening soon. The Ballard News-Tribune went to press before the grand opening was postponed.
“It’s been a house of cards,” Finn Coven told me as he sat for a moment in the upstairs meeting room on day three, the “R” and the “E” propped against the wall behind him, S-T-O-R-E still on the exterior wall. “Lots of moving parts.” They still need to finalize a partnership with a non-profit so that donations can be tax deductible. They want to take the opportunity to reorganize the layout slightly, and paint the building. And for the first time, the plan is for new carpet for the upstairs (although it will probably just be new to them, “new” carpet would just be wrong).
Some customers may not even notice the changeover; the cats will be curled in their usual locations. However as Ballard Reuse they plan to emphasize additional services and items. For example the gorgeous furniture that James Taylor creates from salvaged materials will be displayed more prominently and he may take on custom orders. Finn Coven and Baschke also hope to make items more available on-line so that people can shop virtually as well as in-person. They want to be more of a resource clearinghouse, helping to connect customers with materials they might not carry, as well as educating people on what has reusable value.
Ballard Reuse will continue to preview jobs and pick up salvage materials. They are moving away from hand deconstruction work. They are accepting materials for trade credit. Their hours will be Monday-Saturday 9-6 p.m. and Sundays 10-5 p.m. Their phone number is still 206.207.9119. Their website is now www.ballardreuse.com and they will be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Taking the change in stride the three main questions on the part of customers concerned the cats (staying), capitalizing the “U,” (not) and will there be a grand opening party? (Yes). The grand opening is yet to come and will be announced soon.
In the spirit of reuse the store will always be a work in progress, its inventory a revolving door of the Pacific Northwest’s entire built history. Long live our past and future in the crannies of Ballard Reuse.
Ballard Reuse is located at 1440 N.W. 52nd St., Seattle. Phone (206) 297.9119. www.ballardreuse.com. For calls about projects and materials contact Pat 206.423.4537 or Joel 206.793.9070.
Contact Peggy firstname.lastname@example.org.