By Martin Kidston/MISSOULA CURRENT
When Katie Deuel took the helm at Home ReSource three years ago, the center for recycled building materials had recently landed in its current digs on Russell and Wyoming streets.
While the move marked a big step for the up-and-coming nonprofit, the center remained a relatively small operation. Making rent was often a stretch and the concept of building a business by selling recycled doors, kitchen lights and lumber was a concept still new to Missoula.
Times have certainly changed.
“We will always need space to do what we do, so we started looking into some options for a more permanent space,” Deuel, the executive director, said Monday. “One of them was just being able to invest in the space where we are. We wanted the room and the space to do that to our best ability.”
Home ReSource, founded in 2003, announced last month that it had completed the purchased of its current home on Russell Street. The effort marks a major milestone in the organization’s evolution, one that has helped establish it as a community icon.
But getting there wasn’t easy. Where a down payment once seemed a formidable hurdle for the nonprofit, help from Berkeley United investors, the Rocky Mountain Development Group and other community partners – including Good Works Ventures – made the deal possible.
“We make enough to support our business, but we don’t have enough for a down payment,” Deuel said. “It turns out the folks that own the space were able to donate a significant portion of the purchase price back to us, which constituted the down payment. It made it possible for us to get a conventional loan and buy the building.”
The decision to purchase the current property and its sky-blue steel warehouse came after exploring a number of options. Deuel said the nonprofit was intent on staying downtown, or as close to the city’s core as possible.
The current site offered room to grow as Home ReSource continues its upward trajectory.
“It means we have a permanent space and we’re able to invest in the business, which is really what’s best for Missoula,” Deuel said. “We have room to expand our business in ways we want, especially the deconstruction part. We have a little more room for them to store things and handle larger objects.”
Over the past year, developers have shown a heightened interest in the Missoula market. The result has led to a new construction boom, including several high-profile downtown projects that began with the careful deconstruction of old buildings.
Crews deconstructed the old Salvation Army and Carquest buildings on the corner of West Broadway and Orange Street to make way for the new Stockman Bank project. They also dismantled the old Safeway store on West Broadway, clearing the lot for Providence St. Patrick Hospital and its future plans.
With other projects looming on the horizon, Deuel sees potential in the deconstruction business. It accounted for roughly 30 percent of the nonprofit’s growth last year. But finding space to store and sell the items remains a challenge, though owning the property now opens up new possibilities.
“It enables us to do more with the space we have, and it makes us more efficient with the materials we have,” Deuel said. “Right now, we have things that aren’t covered in the yard, and they end up being ruined because of the weather. This will make us more efficient, enable us to better educate and serve the community.”
While the organization started on a shoestring budget when it was first founded by Matt Hisel and Lauren Varney, it has since grown to provide 30 jobs while keeping more than 1,000 tons of material from the landfill each year.
This time next year, crews will have begun the multi-year effort to expand Russell Street from two crowded lanes to four. Deuel said Home ReSource will help set the stage by investing in the future of its property.
Improvements will include a new facade fronting Russell Street, a loop to simply the drop-off of construction materials, new fencing, and an improved customer experience inside the store.
“It was a good stretch for us to buy the place,” said Deuel. “The next good stretch for us will be to find the resources to really develop this space to how we need it.”