IN 2012, MARK S. FOSTER, president and CEO of Second Chance, got a phone call not unlike many he receives. Someone was tearing down a house and wanted to know if Foster’s nonprofit architectural salvage warehouse wanted to salvage it. The home, in York, Pennsylvania, was under construction and projected to cost $20 million to complete, but less than halfway through the project, the owner was hit hard by the recession and forced to sell. The new owner wanted the house removed so he could subdivide the property.
“A part of the roof was on and all the doors and windows were in place, they just hadn’t finished the inside,” Foster recalls. “We salvaged that entire structure, brought it back to our warehouse and hoped to sell it to people, but the caliber of the product was so high—solid mahogany doors with really high-end hardware—it wasn’t what our customers at the time were looking for.”
Foster’s staff deconstructs buildings and homes, salvages usable materials, and sells those and other donated items at its 200,000-square-foot retail center. The organization began in 2001 and now oversees about 250 teardowns a year. In addition to its mission to reuse materials and keep them out of landfills, Second Chance is also a job center, training employees in marketable hard skills like deconstruction, warehousing, and sales, and soft skills like customer service that are key to professionalism.
Second Chance’s original mission was to save architecturally valuable items in the city from the wrecking ball, but, “As time progressed, donors would ask us to take the cabinets or the appliances, too,” Foster says.
Second Chance took it all, from furniture to floorboards. The result is a warehouse that is a treasure trove of salvaged items: radiators and rare antiques, insulation and Belgian block pavers, mantels and boxes of nails, piles of bathroom tile and framed artwork, chandeliers and doorknobs. It’s like stumbling on a buried treasure for home designers.
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