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Vintage television.

For articles whimsical and practical, including a vintage TV (above), check out the ReUse warehous fall public auction.

Treasure trove: University ReUse warehouse holds fall public auction

University ReUse warehouse holds fall public auction

By Patty Mattern

Published on August 3, 2004

Looking for a used parking booth? How about vintage medical equipment? Or maybe a flute or a floor buffer?

Granted, the market for parking booths may be limited, but the University of Minnesota ReUse warehouse surely stocks something of interest for nearly everyone, and it will all be up for sale when the ReUse warehouse holds its fall public auction August 5, 7, and 9. (See sidebar for auction details.)

If you haven't heard of the ReUse warehouse, listen up. The warehouse is a depot for used University property--like desks, chairs, filing cabinets, drawing boards, etc. Items not claimed for reuse by University departments are made available to the public after 60 days. (The ReUse warehouse is open to the public on Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.)

How the auction works:

The bidding starts at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 5. You can go to the warehouse, see the items, and submit a sealed bid (see hours below), or you can go to the auction Web site, print out a bid form, and fax your bid to the warehouse Thursday morning. At that site you can also view some of the items for sale.

Successful bidders will be notified via e-mail or telephone before 3 p.m. on Wednesday, August 11. Winning dollar amounts will also be posted on the warehouse Web site on Thursday, August 12.

ReUse warehouse public auction viewing hours:

>8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 5

>8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7

>8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 9

The warehouse is located at 883 29th Ave. S.E., Minneapolis.

Items line the warehouse in sections much like any store. Beige, black, and gray file cabinets dominate one corner. Metal and wood desks, both small and large, fill another corner. Chairs in every color and style imaginable form a sea of sitting opportunities for tired warehouse shoppers.

The store and the auction draw in antique dealers, says Pete O'Keefe, ReUse warehouse coordinator. "Mid-century office furniture is very popular as collectibles right now."

The warehouse also ranks as a top prop spot for theaters staging plays and for movies filming in the Twin Cities. Items for the set of "Factotum" starring Matt Dillon and Marisa Tomei came from the warehouse, O'Keefe says. Those working on "Justice," the independently produced local film, also turned to the ReUse warehouse. The Guthrie Lab and the University's Department of Theatre Arts and Dance are warehouse regulars.

"Set designers who are doing a period piece come looking for older things," O'Keefe says. "Even old paper is hard to find and sometimes we have it."

On a recent summer day, workers hauled 30 stools and eight drafting tables into the warehouse. O'Keefe immediately thought of the U's College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (CALA). He called the department and soon CALA's Kevin Groenke was there claiming the stools and tables.

"I'm the communication point between the haves and the have-nots," O'Keefe says.

"By picking up the stools and drafting tables here, that's $5,000 to $6,000 the department doesn't have to spend," Groenke says. Groenke stops by the warehouse several times a year, watching for items for his department and sometimes himself.

"There are fairly nice things," he says. He's seen antique desks and chairs from the '50s or '60s in the industrial design--sometimes historically significant pieces. Discarded by some, the chairs serve as treasures for others. The warehouse had some Eames chairs and Groenke figures some shoppers snatched those up and resold them on places like eBay.

When O'Keefe started managing the warehouse a year and a half ago, he aimed to make enough money for his department to pay for itself. It has done that and more, all the while saving University departments money on equipment and disposal.

When a department claims something, O'Keefe values it at 30 percent of the retail cost. "Over $300,000 worth of goods was claimed last year. If you use that ratio, the U would have spent $1 million buying those things new," O'Keefe says.

Plus, the warehouse also saves on disposal costs. The items the warehouse allocates and sells each year would fill 220 30-yard roll-off dumpsters at $400 a piece. This equals nearly $90,000 in disposal savings, says O'Keefe.

There are times when he's puzzled by items taken in at the warehouse, but there was no mistaking one of the items up for bids in August's public auction. It's hard to miss the maroon parking booth outside the warehouse.

"Those would normally be demolished, but this one was scooped up with a forklift, put on a flatbed, and dropped off here," O'Keefe says.

O'Keefe muses about what will become of the booth.

"Is it going to be an ice fishing shack? Or, maybe, a shed in someone's backyard?"

For more information on the public auction, see the ReUse warehouse Web site or call 612-626-9152.

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