Monday November 12, 2012

MELROSE, N.Y. -- The address changed, but the mission remains the same at the ERC Community Warehouse, reopening later this month in Melrose. The nonprofit reuse center formerly located south of Hoosick Falls along Route 22 closed its doors earlier this summer, after selling that property to the developer of a new Dollar General. Construction there is proceeding as planned.

"We thought it was a good opportunity to find maybe a different location," said ERC President Matthew Curley in an interview last week. A 501(c)3 nonprofit run by a volunteer board of directors, the community warehouse was established in 1995 as a project of the Eastern Rensselaer County Solid Waste Management Authority. It subsequently spun off as a separate entity in 1997.

"The whole principle is to take usable items out of the waste stream," explained Curley, who is also currently executive director of the solid waste management authority. The warehouse accepts donated goods for resale, diverting reusable items for the house or office from the waste disposal stream where it would otherwise be destined for a landfill or incinerator. "If your wife has got a couch that’s orange, and it’s perfectly fine and she doesn’t want it anymore, we’ll clean it up and then sell it."

"We take everything from shovels out of the garage to Christmas trees," including a recent 16-footer that was purchased by a church, according to Curley.


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Dealing in furnishings, electronics and appliances, the warehouse does not take clothing (although it does participate in Fox 23’s Coats for Kids program).

In 2004, the organization reached the $1 million mark in sales, and, over the first nine years, officials then calculated the warehouse had saved the community $100,000 in landfill disposal costs. Over the past few years, however, donations had been on the decline.

"We’re a not-for-profit, so obviously we’re not looking to make money, but we need to pay our employees and insurance costs keep rising, and energy costs keep rising -- that type of stuff keeps rising and our donations were tapering off," Curley said.

"If we don’t have the merchandise, we can’t sell it," he continued. Meanwhile, the Hoosick Falls building needed major work.

The new location in Melrose at 19 Church St. -- the former Esquire drug and convenience store -- also needed renovations, but the nonprofit obtained the empty building at a reduced rate and received in-kind services from contractors. Big ticket items included a new heating system and wall-to-wall carpeting but total renovation costs have been less than originally expected.

Robert Downing, a Hoosick Falls trustee and local representative for the solid waste management authority, said he understood the issue of the warehouse moving out of the area, "but I think it was a good move."

Calling the change an opportunity and reflecting on declining donations, Downing said local residents used to shopping at the warehouse for years would still make the drive. "I’m hoping it will do a lot better" in the higher traffic location, he said.

The new area will give the warehouse a different outlet for both donations and sales. Located along the Route 40 main thoroughfare, the site offers much greater visibility. And while the building is slightly smaller (figure 8,500 square feet compared to the previous advertised 10,000), it has the advantage of a loading dock.

Curley hopes local Hoosick residents will make the approximately 18-mile trek. "We had some really regular customers, once a week they were there, so I expect -- as a matter of fact, I gave a few invitations to the grand opening."

While not yet open, the warehouse is accepting donations by appointment. A grand opening for the new location has been scheduled for Nov. 26, the Monday after Thanksgiving Day, beginning at 10 a.m. Regular hours of operation Tuesday through Saturday will remain the same but may be extended some evenings in the future. For more information call (518) 687-1017.