Business of the Week: The Away Station – San Anselmo-Fairfax, CA Patch

This is an impressive idea, locating a salvage yard within an already existing lumber yard.  Powell’s Books of Portland, Oregon carries used books alongside of new ones. Industry leaders said that this is a business model destined to fail.  In fact, Powell’s Books is a thriving business and has been successful for years now.  Combining salvaged materials along with new materials creates options, educates, and allows for less stops along a project.  It’s a great idea, maybe we can encourage it to grow. 

The Away Station, 109 Broadway, Fairfax (415) 453-4221, (415) 453-4410;

What do they offer?

Located in the lumber yard at Fairfax Lumber & Hardware, The Away Station is a nonprofit organization with a vision to create a world without waste.

Everything offered is salvaged. Lumber, hardware, doors, windows, sinks, ovens, light fixtures, cabinets, furniture, art supplies, home accents, and so much more are available at unbelievably low prices.

Services include hauling, professional moving, organizing and green business ideas.

When you purchase items you get a great deal. If you donate items, you get a tax benefit.

Who are they?

Executive Director Carrie Bachelder grew up in San Anselmo and went to Drake. Her dad taught at Redwood High School and her mom is a member of the native plant society. “My whole family is still here,” she said.

Bachelder is an energetic woman who started several companies including catering and making jewelry from found objects, but the moving and organizing company gave her the idea for this enterprise. “Whether they are moving or remodeling, I saw that my clients always needed to get rid of stuff. We were driving all over the place to the appropriate resale stores because nobody takes everything,” she said.

“The biggest issue is a place that takes building materials. My contractor brother suggested I speak with Fairfax Lumber & Hardware, because of their sustainable and green business  practices,” she said. “When I shared what I wanted to do, they saw it as a perfect fit.”

How long have they been here?

The Away Station opened in the spring of 2010, but the idea germinated for five years. Bachelder decided to set up the business as a nonprofit, because many of her Marin customers wanted a donation. “We are not funded by anybody,” she said. “The corporation is a 501c3.”

A team of seniors from Redwood High School is revamping the website so visitors can see the changing stock.

Bachelder is on site three to five days a week. Still in the moving and organizing business, she looks brings in materials from clients who are selling or remodeling their homes.

The Away Station has one-and-a-half paid employees and the rest are volunteers. “My yard man is my hero,” said Bachelder. “He has the consistent on-site knowledge, plus he does the heavy lifting. All the customers love him.”

Why are they business of the week?

The mission of The Away Station is to serve the community in its commitment to a zero waste lifestyle through: diverting reusable material from the landfill; providing services for the collection of construction and demolition by-products; providing a facility for redistribution of salvage materials; educating the public on best practices for reuse; and promoting green collar jobs.

“If someone is gutting a million dollar house from the 40s, 50s, or earlier, it will probably cost about $80,000 to do the demolition. The homeowner can get much more than that in a tax write-off benefit. In addition, the homeowner gets ‘the good feeling’ because many of their treasured items will be used by another family, and the old growth redwood is sent onto a new life rather than winding up in a landfill,” Bachelder said.

Because they are a nonprofit, a third-party appraiser needs to be brought in prior to demolition. According to Bachelder, deconstruction contractors are becoming more skilled at removing things like shutters, doors and wood intact, to preserve resources.

San Francisco resident, Linda Kosut, and her architect husband drove to Fairfax for a door. “We love the integrity of older things,” she said. “Our house was built in 1918 and our Tahoe property in the late 40s. The prices here are fabulous. It’s like an outdoor hardware store full of wonderful finds,” she enthused.

“We are the only ones doing this in Marin, but we network with all the other re-use facilities in the Bay Area. I vowed to create a system for our community,” Bachelder said.

Like most entrepreneurs, Bachelder has a master plan. “We started with the building materials,” she said, “but my goal is to make an entire shopping area here. I would love to co-locate already existing resale and repair small businesses so that you can buy a lamp at The Away Station and walk it over to someone who can rewire it. My goal is to make effortless to live a zero waste lifestyle. ”

via Business of the Week: The Away Station – San Anselmo-Fairfax, CA Patch.