SHOP AND SAVE: Chicago remodeler Burnell Loggins, who partners with local nonprofits to rehabilitate urban properties that would otherwise be demolished, makes good use of The Storehouse.
SHOP AND SAVE: Chicago remodeler Burnell Loggins, who partners with local nonprofits to rehabilitate urban properties that would otherwise be demolished, makes good use of The Storehouse.

WHAT'S A DISTRIBUTOR TO DO WITH 2,000 units of last year's hot faucet model, now lukewarm, or the 1,500 gallons of lavender paint claiming squatters' rights in the warehouse?

More than 300 building products companies have found a way to move excess inventory, lighten their tax burden, and do good all at the same time. They're donating their overstock to The Storehouse, a nonprofit clearinghouse that redirects discontinued building products to communities in need. Founded in 1995 under the umbrella of World Vision, an international faith-based relief organization, The Storehouse maintains building supply outlets in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and West Virginia. National donors include Kohler, Moen, Simonton Windows, Precision Entry, and Therma-Tru.

A membership system allows local nonprofits (including builders and subs working with nonprofits) as well as registered low-income families to shop in the outlets and purchase building materials at a discount. Products are free, although patrons are asked to pay a “handling fee” of 15 percent to 20 percent of market value.

“The handling fee's purpose is twofold,” explains Bob Weszely, national accounts manager for The Storehouse. “It gives people a sense of dignity because they are actually paying for something instead of taking a handout. And it builds sustainability into our operations so we don't have to rely on cash donations to keep running.”

The most commonly stocked products at The Storehouse include windows and doors, paint, flooring, cabinets, and plumbing supplies, but few building materials are ever turned away. “We don't cherry pick,” Weszely says. “If there's a huge donation and we end up with excess inventory after we've stocked all our outlets, we share the overage with other nonprofit organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity.” For more information, visit www.thestorehouse.org.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Chicago, IL.