Reduce, reuse, get some stuff for cheap

by Angela Gray

In between the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses lies a hotbed for purchasing used appliances, equipment and furniture, open to students and the general public.

Mountains of school desks and towers of filing cabinets, along with shelves teeming with miscellaneous items such as autopsy saws and dental chairs, fill the University’s ReUse Warehouse.

Chris Hruza, ReUse Program coordinator, said the warehouse, located on 29th Avenue Souteast, has been collecting and selling people’s “unwanted stuff” for five years.

“We try to get things into the hands of people and into reuse,” he said.

Cindi Cardinal, administration specialist for the University’s recycling program, located kitty-corner to the warehouse, said both facilities accept items from the University and the general public and charge a small service fee.

“We pick up big industrial appliances, incubators, stoves, air conditioners, computers, anything you can think of, we take,” she said.

Hruza said the warehouse saves the University a lot of money.

“It would cost a fortune to put all the items we collect into landfills,” he said.

Annually, the warehouse saves 225 tons of junk from the dump.

Hruza said anything the warehouse cannot sell, they send to the recycling center to be broken down into components like scrap metal.

There is no shelf life or limit on items.

“Some things have to sit for awhile before the right buyer comes along,” he said.

Some big-name buyers also end up taking a stroll down the aisles, filling their shopping carts with set props for productions.

“Last year, during the filming of “A Prairie Home Companion,’ the production rented things from the warehouse,” Hruza said.

The Guthrie Theater Lab and the University Department of Theatre Arts and Dance are warehouse regulars, he said.

University building administration furnishing their classrooms and graduate students furnishing their apartments are also frequent customers, he added.

An office chair runs for $9 and desks usually sold at $300 to $400 go for $25.

He said in public sales, they sell around $250,000 worth of used items annually.

Hruza said the warehouse also looks into secondary markets like charter schools or public schools.

“Recently, we sent 1,000 tablet-arm chairs to African schools where there is a greater need for them,” he said.

Patricia Olive, props manager for the Guthrie Theater, said they have purchased furniture from the warehouse for a number of their shows.

“We are pretty usual buyers,” she said. “There is (warehouse-bought) furniture in our current show,” she said.

Hruza and Cardinal agreed that they’ve seen some “oddball items” come into their warehouse.

“The weirdest thing had to be a catapult a physics high school teacher purchased for launching bowling balls,” he said, “or maybe the large animal moving machine sold for transporting elephants.”