From trash to treasure: East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse

It’s like a retail blackhole that won’t suck the life out of your wallet. East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse has had a gravitational pull on local teachers, artists, DIYers — and pretty much anyone interested in saving money — since it was first opened by Oakland teachers almost 40 years ago. 

The nonprofit shop markets itself as “Every teacher’s first stop, every artist’s second home,” but should tack on the warning “Enter at your own risk.” Really. If you think you’re just going to run in for a quick stop, think again. Here’s the amazing thing, though: While you may end up staying longer than you intended, unlike the typical store experience you’ll likely end up paying way less than you budgeted for. 

The Temescal spot packed with salvaged materials is a 10-minute walk from MacArthur BART Station and spills forth used furniture and art onto the sidewalk at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and 47th Street. There you’ll find the place to brush up on your paintbrush shopping. Want to put a bird on it, or a button or a shaped box? Your inner Martha Stewart will find what you’re looking for to make your next epic mixed media project complete. All at ridiculously low prices: It’s the ultimate thrift store for the craft-minded versus clothing bargain shopper.

As long as you come in armed with an appreciation for function versus polished presentation, you’ll enjoy digging through disheveled piles of worn materials to uncover that thing you were looking for or didn’t know you needed. A parade of used art supplies commingles with office accessories, while a designated "Teacher Resource Zone" in the back fuels many classroom lessons. (There are even free rolls of craft paper for teachers.)

Those who sew can scour the fabric selection, knitters can simmer in the cubbies of yarn, music lovers can scope out the back wall of old records (75 cents each) and cassettes (25 cents each), and painters can score partially used watercolors, dyes, acrylics and more. Used canvases and frames are filed nearby; mount one as it is or paint over one to give it a whole new reincarnation.

Relishing the term "miscellaneous," “The Depot” fills open barrels to the brim with wine corks, cardboard toilet paper tubes, CD jewel cases, egg and milk cartons and other random tidbits intended for better (re)use than being relegated to landfills. Shabby chic really can be cheap when you decorate with an imaginative, open mind.

Note: This is also a stellar place to “give back” by donating reusable items when it comes time for your own spring cleaning. Pay it forward and pass on your supplies for good art karma.

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