One of the largest reusable building material retailers in Chicagoland opens in Maywood

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Michael Romain

Editor, Village Free Press

Think of the ReUse Depot as a mini Home Depot, but stocked with much more affordable and, in many instances, higher quality home building materials and appliances

ReUse Depot, one of the largest reusable building material retailers in the Chicago metro area, opened at 50 W. Madison — next door to Maywwod Village Hall. ReUse occupies the former site of the old Maywood Armory, where the 33rd Infantry Division of the Illinois National Guard was once based. After America entered WWII, the 33rd infantry division would be merged into Company "B" of the 192nd Tank Batallion, which would go on to face the infamous Bataan Death March.

It's rather fitting that ReUse Depot would take residence in the historically significant building, since much of the reused building material that it sales is rich with historic resonance and durability. Before the store officially opened in September it hosted a monthly meeting of the Neighbors of Maywood Community Organization (NOMCO). Many NOMCO members, after perusing some of the store's inventory of kitchen and bathroom fixtures, appliances and flooring material, kept saying, 'They just don't make stuff like this anymore.'

ReUse Depot was formerly located at 1127 Washington Boulevard in Bellwood. It's an affiliate of OBID Construction, a deconstruction company that tears down homes. OBID has to salvage a certain percentage of what it tears down, so much of that becomes the inventory showcased throughout the approximately 43,000 square-foot building on Madison. OBID, in turn, cooperates with a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called The ReUse People of America, Inc., which partners with retailers similar to ReUse Depot all around the country.

In all, the operation on Madison Street is spreads out on nearly 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor real estate. According to a June memo prepared by Angela Smith, Maywood's business development coordinator, the entire enterprise is anticipated to generate about $121,000 a year in property taxes.

ReUse Depot's manager, Michelle FitzGerald, who along with her husband Kyle FitzGerald runs the retail operation's day-to-day affairs, said that they were attracted to this area because of the amount of home renovations that are taking place and because of people like Gustavo and Sarah Lira.

The Liras were among the very first customers who got to browse the more than 40,000 square-foot expanse during ReUse's grand opening. The couple renovated a historic home of their own in Maywood, a landmarked Victorian replete with gables and Gothic arches. Sarah is the executive director of Housing Helpers, a nonprofit that restores vacant, dilapidated homes to be sold at affordable prices to working class buyers.

Lira said that this year, Housing Helpers has sold six renovated properties, each over $150,000 and all of which were south of Oak Street. She also noted that the time frame in which sales were taking place was less than two weeks — all indications of a vibrant local market that ReUse could tap into.

"We see a lot of single family houses being bought, rehabbed and flipped," said FitzGerald. "It's nice to see. It's exactly our demographic — people who want to buy a home for their family, rehab it and make it their own, but don't necessarily want to pay brand new prices. A kitchen remodel averages, what, around $50,000?"

FitzGerald said that many of the materials and appliances — which range from sinks, toilets, tools, water heaters and windows to lumber, lighting,  flooring and paneling — are taken out of deconstructed homes in some of the wealthiest places in the country, such as Winnetka, Hinsdale and Lake Forest.

"We price our things at 30 to 50 percent less than what they would be at Home Depot, depending on how old they are," said Fitzgerald. "For antiques, we may be looking at an entirely different price range."

FitzGerald said that ReUse's ambitions don't stop at retail. She and her husband Kyle also want to be an active presence in Maywood's social and cultural environment. She hinted that in the future, the large open field of green that annexes the northeastern side of their property might be used to engage the community. In the meantime, however, the FitzGeralds are focused on maximizing the massive Armory's surplus square footage.

"Space is available for rent," said Michelle. 

ReUse Depot is open everyday, except Tuesday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, please call (708) 223-0502, or visit their Facebook page here, or their website here.

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