On an average day, the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, an Oakland thrift store, is chock full of school supplies, furniture and even quirky items like ET postcards and baskets full of doll heads. The shop buzzes with teachers, students, parents and passers-by, either in search of something specific like pencils for the classroom or just hoping for a unique find.
Founded in Oakland 30 years ago, the idea behind the Depot for Creative Reuse is to take in donated items and sell them, while giving a portion back to the community.
“One teacher had too much paper and not enough pencils and another teacher had too many pencils and not enough paper,” said materials manager Peter Glover, explaining how the mega-thrift store got its start. “So they just decided to exchange.”
Located on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland’s Temescal district, the store is run by a small but dedicated staff. People donate unwanted goods and Creative Reuse either sells the goods or donates them to humanitarian or relief organizations. For example, the Depot donates resources to local schools, gives things like blankets and coats to the homeless, has donated items to Hurricane Katrina survivors and even given to relief organizations in the Middle East.
“Larger than these donations are the individuals who give us materials, that’s really what keeps us running,” said Glover. “We rarely actually buy our inventory, it’s all donated to us as a non-profit.”
Teachers, art students and locals can be found here daily, loading up with everything from cheap office supplies to clocks and Halloween buckets. Customers say the shopping can be hit or miss—sometimes the goods are like gold treasure, sometimes a little more like trash.
“People look around the store and say, ‘How can they get rid of this?’” said Andrew Dilberger, a program manager at Creative Reuse, referring to the things that have been donated. “Well, maybe they need to make space, maybe it’s broken, maybe they upgraded, maybe they gained weight, maybe they lost weight,” he said of the people who gave the items to the shop.
The depot is a treasure chest for local teachers, who often find school supplies and cheap materials for art projects. The depot holds teacher-related sales and giveaways because of education cuts in California and the nation, Glover said. “Every day, when a teacher’s able to buy a bag of pencils for 25 cents,” he said, “they tell us how the schools aren’t even able to provide pencils anymore, that this comes out of their own pocket.”
Claire Caldwell, a volunteer teacher for elementary students in Oakland, said she comes to the store to get things for the art class she teaches every other week. “I’ve bought a lot of calendars here because the kids made boxes out of them,” Caldwell said.
So whether you’re looking for school supplies, craft materials, or a do-it-yourself Christmas gift, chances are you’ll find something at the Depot for Creative Reuse.
Address for the Depot for Creative Use:
4695 Telegraph Ave.
Oakland, CA 94609
Phone: (510) 547 6470