Chicago Sign and Barber Chair at the ReUse Depot

What’s a creative reuse store?

It’s a place that keeps good stuff out of landfills. They’re often not-for-profits and may specialize in selling home improvement supplies or art and craft supplies that might otherwise end up in the landfill. Many stores offer hands-on workshops as well as shopping.

Chicago is blessed with many creative reuse stores, here’s a list of all of them in Chicago, the Chicago suburbs and the Midwest.

A picture of the store at The Waste Shed in Chicago, IL

The Waste Shed
Chicago’s premier creative reuse store! Now with a larger location and space for workshops! They’ve added new products to their line up as well, in a possible first for creative reuse stores. Since opening, they’ve diverted 50 tons of great stuff from the landfills! (They weigh everything that comes in!)

Zero Landfill
is a national organization with a chapter in Chicago. They collect designer samples that would otherwise be thrown away and host two giveaway days (one in fall and one in spring) where anyone can pick up delightful samples including fabric, wallpaper, tile, and untold additional surprises. Bring your own bag! Bags. Though they have a website, the best place to find information and pick up dates is their Facebook page.

BASE at Brushwood Center at Ryerson Woods
This small, but mighty shop is nestled in a gorgeous, quiet forest. Visiting is a mini-retreat in itself. They sell art and craft supplies including scrapbooking supplies, rubber stamping, fabric, sewing and yarn, kits and more. They offer classes in addition to shopping and a tool library.

Creative Reuse Stores for Home Improvement

Staircase and exercise bike at the ReUse Depot store

The ReBuilding Exchange has a warehouse full of parts of buildings, including trim, lumber, appliances, radiators, doors and windows, kitchen cabinets and plumbing parts. They have a lovely selection. If you like old stuff, or are trying to repair/improve your old house with period parts, you’ll love this place.

Habitat for Humanity ReStore
is a national chain, check their website to find one near you. The Chicago store is at 6040 N. Pulaski Rd. and sells furniture as well as appliances, tools, home improvement supplies and all kinds of other stuff. Their suburban location is in Chicago Heights.

ReUse Depot
in the Chicago suburb of Maywood, this large, dusty warehouse is full of wonderful, wonderful odds and ends, from antique door knobs to bathtubs and even complete kitchens, with cabinets and high end appliances. They have plenty of doors and windows and sometimes complete sets of stairs!

And they even share their excess land with a not-for-profit farming group that grows cucumbers and makes Knockout Pickles!

Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse    You get the idea by now, : ) they sell building parts for your home improvement projects, providing usable materials that would otherwise end up in landfills.

Creative Reuse Stores in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio

Paintbrushes for Sale at the IDEA store

The IDEA Store in Urbana, IL
is a delightful place, full of art and craft supplies, 55 gallon barrels full of corks and who-knows-what-you’ll-find! Some items are priced by the each and others by the pound!

Arts and Scraps in Detroit, MI

Teachers’ Treasures in Indianapolis, IN (teachers only)

Recreation Station in Milwaukee, WI

Scrap It Up in Cincinnati, OH

Upcycle Parts Shop in Cleveland, OH

Scrap 4 Art in Toledo, OH

Reuse Stores Exclusively for Teachers

SCARCE in DuPage County is exclusively for teachers.

Chicago Creative Reuse Exchange is exclusively for teachers, with exceptions sometimes. (I’ll write and ask them for clarification.) While they began as an events-based program, with pick up days, they now have a warehouse! And their large “Swap Circle” pick up events are still happening, there’s one every August.

The Waste Shed has a specific area with free items for teachers and often has additional discounts for teachers.

National List of Creative Reuse Stores

Fabric at the IDEA Store in Urbana, IL

There used to be an excellent list of creative reuse stores across the country, but it’s no longer online and the lists I can find are out of date.  The best way to find one may be to just search using the terms creative reuse store + your state.

Chicago Creative Reuse Exchange offers this list of additional resources in Illinois and beyond:

Always double check hours of operation before you go!  Creative reuse stores are often small not-for-profits that aren’t open every day of the week and sometimes, sadly, they go out of business.

Artist Who Work With Upcycled or Recycled Materials

Gina Lee Robbins
Bryan Northrup
Eleanor Ray
Alix Mikesell
and me! Elaine Luther. Click over to Portfolio to see my work. Not all of my art includes upcycled bits, but a good amount of it does.

And I wrote a manifesto on the use of recycled materials in art classes with children. You can read it here:

Can you recommend a creative reuse shop in the Midwest? Please post in the comments. Same for if you’d like to share about an artist who works with recycled or upcycled materials. Thanks!

Photos are of The Waste Shed in Chicago, the IDEA Store in Urbana, IL and ReUse Depot in Maywood, IL.

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