The Lewiston Sun-Journal recently ran a front page story about the advantages of shopping at the Maine BME.
Building Some Savings
By Bonnie Washuk , Staff Writer
Thursday, February 26, 2009
LISBON - A warehouse on Route 196 holds deals for homeowners.
Found there recently: sinks, $10 to $150; interior doors, $40; Delta faucets, $70; new windows, $75.
There are also piles of lumber, siding, insulation, tiles and water heaters.
Welcome to Building Materials Exchange, a nonprofit organization with a mission of keeping good stuff out of landfills and providing affordable home-improvement materials to low-income homeowners and others.
The lowest prices, and goods considered essential - heating systems, insulation and roofing - are reserved for those most in need.
BME started as a program to teach people how to buy their first homes, said operations director Dave Zimmerman. The homes they could afford needed repairs. People came back, asking for help.
"We started bringing on large vendors who had products sitting around, discontinued or mis-made, but not damaged," Zimmerman said. Products are donated mostly from manufacturers and distributors, a few retailers and individuals.
"We get so much weird stuff, the only way to move it is make it available to others," said Executive Director Bill Ewing. That could include floor tiles, plumbing, interior doors, and exterior doors not in frames.
One example was closet organizers donated by Lowe's. "We went to each Lowe's store and picked up six or seven pallets of 'Closet Maids' they would have put into Dumpsters," Ewing said.
Zimmerman showed off a new, "huge" commercial hot-water heater, for sale to anyone because it's too big for a single-family home and would work for a five-unit apartment complex.
A distributor buying out another distributor donated it. Because he can't warranty the hot-water heater, he can't sell it. "So it comes to us, all brand-new," Zimmerman said. "It retails for almost $4,000. We're selling it for $1,000."
A few feet away was a brand-new heat pump, to heat a home, reserved for the low-income shopper. Around the corner were piles of 2- by 2-foot carpet tiles, $1 each. "We have eight pallets left. You could do a basement for $50," Zimmerman said.
Looking over a bounty of miscellaneous cabinet door fronts, Zimmerman said homeowners who are resourceful can find some deals at BME, but it's not like a retail store. It's not as organized and the merchandise is always changing.
"The person who knows a little about building is really going to score here," Ewing said.
In recent months, BME has sold more items to middle-income shoppers trying to stretch their money, Zimmerman said.
Another place to get interior home goods is the ReStore, 44 Strawberry Ave. in Lewiston. ReStore sells mostly used items ranging from dryers to lighting fixtures. "We have lots of mirrors, some furniture, appliances, kitchen cabinets," said Manager Jerry Junkins. Sales support Habitat for Humanity, an organization that builds affordable housing.
Both the ReStore and BME accept donations.
"If you're doing a home renovation or are tearing out your kitchen, don't throw it away. Donate it," BME's Zimmerman said. "I have a waiting list of people looking for kitchen cabinets."
For more information visit: www.mainebme.org.
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