Program passes on age-worn furnishings

Walking into Pete O’Keefe’s office is like stepping into a time machine.

There are tables that spent more than 50 years in Coffman Union. File cabinets, matching chairs, staplers, coffee mugs and pots, trash cans, cassette tapes, and “funky old desks” are among the thousands of items from University buildings dating back to World War II in the warehouse O’Keefe runs.

The 30,000-square-foot University warehouse is stacked to the roof with remnants of the past, available for purchase to the general public or for free to University departments.

O’Keefe is the University’s Reuse Program coordinator, and it’s his job to manage and organize the warehouse.

“We feel for faculty and students, it’s a great resource to get stuff at a real reasonable price,” O’Keefe said.

After former University President Mark Yudof’s efforts to clean, reconstruct and revamp University buildings, the school needed a plan for all the old materials.

“Under Yudof there was so much remodeling going on,” O’Keefe said. “And every time you remodel a space Ö all that winds up here.”

Instead of spending money to truck the items to a landfill, O’Keefe said the University made a wise decision to keep the items around for sale or future use.

The warehouse holds hundreds of desks and tables for $20, some dating back to 1920. So many $5 desk chairs are in stock that a 30-yard row of them now splits the building.

O’Keefe says word-of-mouth is key to redistributing the items.

“What I’m trying to accomplish is to bring more people into this building,” he said. “Once we do that, we’ll be real successful.”

Ann Mayhew selected approximately 50 matching chairs from the warehouse last week for use in buildings for the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.

The assistant CALA dean said the warehouse’s size can be overwhelming but said she saw a lot of things her college could use.

The Reuse Center is located at 883 29th Ave. S.E., one block south of Como Avenue. To schedule an appointment, call Emily at (612) 625-6481.