Our Story

Second Use founder Roy Hunter examines lumber he salvaged from the demolition of a Fred Meyer in north Seattle. (Photo clipped/ cropped from Rick Schweinhart’s in 1/4/95 article in the Citizen.)

Second Use has been reclaiming building materials for reuse in the Puget Sound region since 1994. Our mission is to

  • Divert reusable building materials from the landfill
  • Preserve components of our architectural heritage
  • Provide affordable building materials to the public
  • Offer living wage jobs to our staff

We are a community business – our materials come from and are used in the local region. The company itself is locally grown. The owners are employees, and the employees together shape the future of the business.

The Beginning

Roy Hunter, a contractor and environmentalist, started the company after becoming frustrated with the amount of materials he saw getting thrown away on construction sites. He pooled finances with a few family members and leased an empty 2-acre field in Woodinville, Washington, as the site of the first store. The first inventory consisted of salvaged lumber and beams from the demolition of a Fred Meyer store in north Seattle.

Over time, the business developed. Lawson Schaller and Michael Armstrong, later to become co-owners of Second Use, and others joined the staff, helping organize the store. Racks were constructed to house different types of materials and limit the ill effects of rain and wind.

 

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The original letterhead shows the “2nd Saves” logo that served for several years:

Second Use Building Materials

Seattle Store Opens

Within a couple of years, with business growing, Roy envisioned a store in the city of Seattle, closer to the population, and, as it turned out…the dump. In 1997, the Seattle store opened in its South Park location. An early photo shows the company pickup parked in the yard.

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In 1998, founder Roy Hunter was diagnosed with a rapidly growing brain tumor, which turned fatal about a year later. In the midst of this loss, Lawson Schaller and Michael Armstrong took over ownership of the business, continuing to build on the foundation established by Roy.

A period of experimentation and innovation

At this point, there were two stores: the original in Woodinville and the new one in Seattle. The company experimented briefly with a three-store configuration, adding a storefront in Olympia, Washington. Maintaining this three-store footprint turned out to be complex, requiring new infrastructure and management. It was decided that the company was not ready to sustain a multiple store operation at this time. By the spring of 2002, operations were consolidated down to a single store in Seattle.

In the meantime, the original store manager for the Seattle store, Ted Siebert, developed from scratch a computer-based information-management system for the business. The system enabled tracking of inventory, salvage jobs, as well as sales and other information. In addition, much of the store inventory was put on wheels to reduce the need for lifting and handling materials. These innovations have helped Second Use serve suppliers and customers more efficiently and helped put the company at the technological forefront in the young building materials reuse industry.

Our Story

Beginning with its 10th anniversary in fall of 2004, Second Use has held an annual Fall Festival, complete with games, food, music, art and opportunities to learn about salvage and reuse. It's also a great way to celebrate with our community.

An important partnership

In 1997, Lawson Schaller began conversations with the Seattle affliliate of Habitat for Humanity about the potential to work together, and soon after, Second Use began consigning materials donated to Habitat. The partnership expanded to Habitat for Humanity of East King County and other affiliates in the region. Since that time, Second Use has provided salvage and sales services to recover donated materials from buildings for the benefit of Habitat. In recent times, Second Use has enabled contributions of approximately $200,000 per year to Habitat affiliates. We are grateful for the continuing opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity and donors of building materials to support affordable housing.

A continuing vision

In 2004, Lawson Schaller departed from Second Use, and two long time employees, Patrick Burningham and Dirk Wassink, stepped into ownership alongside Michael Armstrong. The threesome has endeavored with current staff to grow the business on the solid foundation built by Roy and Lawson.

Second Use has been recognized for ongoing growth and achievement in the community. In 2006, it was a winner of the Seattle Mayor’s Small Business Award. In 2007, it received the Washington State Recycling Association’s “Recycler of the year – business primary” award.

In the fall of 2012, Second Use moved to its current location in SoDo at 3223 6th Ave. S. The company is proud to have taken over the old Alaskan Copper Building-- another historic Seattle institution. The building offers more space, better lighting, and an easier-to-find address. It will allow Second Use to grow as the years go on. 

When Second Use started in 1994, there were only a handful of similar businesses around the United States. Today, there are several hundred. As environmental and economic forces continue to impress upon our society the benefits of reducing waste, Second Use envisions salvage and reuse of building materials as an increasingly user-friendly process and a standard component of a construction job. We envision building our capabilities in professional salvage and deconstruction services, and we aim to provide an enjoyable shopping experience for customers. We will do this together with contractors, homeowners, customers and community in the Puget Sound region – those who have been our partners from the beginning.

Second Use Wins Mayor's Small Business Award