It's no wonder the home-improvement business is going like gangbusters: People seem to be digging in and staying home these days. So, of course, they want to improve their abodes, which are becoming less and less like crash pads all the time. But even when you do the work yourself, fix-it prices can be daunting.
Don't give up: There's always Bud's Warehouse, a faith-based nonprofit that retails building materials donated by contractors and other bighearted benefactors. Bud's offers mind-blowing deals while performing a much-needed community service by providing job training to people on society's fringes: felons, alcoholics and addicts seeking gainful escape routes from the halfway houses they inhabit. Like the damaged constituency it employs, Bud's moves around a lot; development displaced it from former locations on the fringes of LoDo and Lincoln Park. "We have a habit of preceding loft projects," notes executive director Jim Reiner, who hopes Bud's can stay put for a while in its current digs, a red-brick structure built in 1881 as the Colorado Iron Works. "Since we're in the business of rebuilding lives, it's kind of neat to recover an old building like this in the same way," he adds.
Will they sell anythingat Bud's? "We do have some standards," Reiner assures. On any given day, you can expect to find at least some of the warehouse's more popular items -- such as cabinets, tile, doors (Bud's has about 2,000, so many that some have to be stored in the parking lot) and high-end Pella and Andersen windows, some new and some used -- offered at prices ranging from 30 to 70 percent off retail. There are dinged-up-but-new appliances at half-price, carpet, light fixtures galore, pedestal sinks and pink toilets, vintage knobs and drawer pulls and just about anything you ever might have thought you were getting deals on at the big-box hardware stores -- until you came to Bud's, that is.
And no request gets a blank look from the help here. "To us, 'way out' is average," says Lanny Guernsey, the warehouse's donation coordinator. "There are so many different materials out there, nothing seems so strange." Odder than the requests, he adds, are some of the items they've been offered: a set of hangar doors, for instance, or a $7,000 gold faucet. Even whole houses have been donated, lock, stock and transom. But there's no end to the uses customers might find for stuff they buy at Bud's: One guy hooked up some old greenhouse fans to a motor and generated electricity for his home; another fellow built a 6,000-square-foot mountain hideaway entirely from Bud's materials. And there's a whole "trash-to-treasures" set that shops at Bud's -- people who craft metal siding into funky shower stalls and make frescoes from broken tile and bed frames from doors.
Those are the folks you might find haunting Bud's weekly, because the fluid inventory constantly changes. You never know when a load of brand-new fireplace mantels, still in their boxes, will arrive, but if you happen to be looking for something out of the ordinary and want to be alerted if it shows up, Bud's also has a Buddy Card System, where you can register your wants online (log on to www.belay.org). Or, as Reiner encourages, you can always call.
Incidentally, there is no actual Bud. Though the moniker's been saddled with a meaningful acronym -- Building Unity and Dignity through Service -- it was also just selected because it's a pretty catchy name, especially suitable for a place that recycles building materials while recycling lives. And be encouraged: You won't find a more cheerful work force anywhere. Reiner says the success rate for turning lives around at Bud's is better than half.
It's good deal, all the way around.