An Inside Look into the Past, Present, & Future of RBC with a Salvage Specialist

By: Chris Lambert

I started at the ReBuilding Center in November 2005, so I’ve been here twelve-going-on-thirteen years. When I look at the organization today, what gives me the most hope is that we seem to be pretty good at adapting and changing, and figuring out what we need to do to keep up. I see us consciously trying to do this, and this is good.

The meetings we’ve been having recently, the strategic planning meetings, and the conversations we’ve been having in our weekly Store meetings—we’re batting around ideas and focusing on the right things. Making improvements in the store and alleyway, finding ways to organize things better—this new activity has been good. Most important is that now we’re starting to go from general ideas to specific things we can do and concrete actions we can take.


As we translate ideas into concrete actions, I’m especially interested in how some of the key areas we’ve been talking about come together. The combination of improving the shopability of the store, improving wayfinding and making it easier to get around, improving signage—these efforts will make it easier for customers to shop here, and they’ll make it easier on staff too, as customers need to call on us less to answer questions about pricing or where to find things.

The real challenge for us will be to stay focused on our plans and not let our goals get buried by the day to day. Even though we’re making plans and trying to adapt, we can get so caught up in trying to keep up. We’re going to have to keep an eye on our long-term goals and make small changes when we can. This is the key. Big goals can seem overwhelming, but small changes every day and over time will slowly move us in the right direction.

If money weren’t a constraint, I’d invest in doing some painting on the inside to brighten up the interior and make things look better and cleaner. The other thing would be to make a parking or loading turn-out in the alleyway to help traffic flow through better and help speed up the donation process. An awning over the donation area would be nice too, so we would have shelter from the elements—for us and for customers, but also the stuff. If there was a cabinet donation and it was raining we could leave it outside while we figure out where to put it without it getting wet or damaged.


Working on efficiencies, shopability, getting the cashier space working right with the new point of sale system—all of this is really important. Also staffing—I think we need to get a few more people in. These are the most important things.

When someone comes to me looking for something they think they won’t be able to find—some little plumbing washer or something—and I’m pretty sure we have it and am able to help find it for them, they’re amazed. That’s my favorite part. Recently, a lady came in and I could tell she was anxious. She came in looking a very specific cabinet door, and she brought in an example with her. She asked for help and I said, “Oh yes, we have lots of cabinet doors,” and I sent her in the right direction. When she came back she was smiling, and I could see the relief in her. I could tell right away she found exactly what she wanted.

I’ve sort of been taking care of Ella Cat for a long time. She was here when I got here. I think Tom said she was here before we moved in. I hear she came with the building. I look out for her. Sometimes she’ll come to whine to me if something’s not right. There are only a few things it could be: food, water, potty…sometimes she just wants some attention. I notice she’s been a little mellower since she had her bad teeth pulled a few years ago. Now she has more patience for kids. I just took Ella Cat for her regular annual vet check-up. The doctor drew some blood, so we need to wait on the results from that. She had a few fleas, so they treated that, and her weight is down a little from last year, but at first glance the doctor said Ella Cat seems to be doing great and aging gracefully.

What do pets do for us? That’s a good question. We have to look out for them—they kind of make us less selfish, and more aware of other creatures.


This place really is a special and magical oasis in a crazy world. A place that’s a little closer what the world should be, where people can come and decompress, and that can serve as an example that something a little different is possible.

If this was the last day and the world ended tomorrow, I’d just want it to be like any given day at the ReBuilding Center. I’d pay attention, and just savor all the little details that I really like about it here. The energy and activity that goes on in the place, the interactions with customers and helping customers, seeing them smile when the find what they’re looking for, feeding and petting Ella Cat for the last time…

Just all the regular day to day stuff.

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