Horry County SWA resale store turning trash to treasure

Marina Leonard knows she can generally find a good book at the Horry County Solid Waste Authority’s resale store.

And on Wednesday, the Loris resident was again searching the shelves for that next page-turner destined to keep her up late at night.

“I more than likely do find something that I can’t live without,” Leonard said.

This isn’t Leonard’s first trip to the resale store, and it won’t be her last. And that is what store operators are crediting with their success after one year in operation – repeat customers.

And their patronage has allowed all start-up costs to be recovered and The Store, as it’s formally called, can now begin to show a profit and continue helping the Horry County Council on Aging feed seniors through its meal delivery service.

That’s not even taking into account all the waste that’s not going into the local landfill and is instead going to be a treasure in someone else’s home.

There are plenty of treasures to choose from. The Store sells everything from golf clubs to Christmas decorations, from paintings to a doll that’s even dressed up as a nun.

“We’re full to the brim,” said Donna Crump, SWA director.

And those treasures are helping others. The SWA and the Council on Aging partnered on the store’s operation. Since it opened in October 2011, there are now four full-time employees.

Part of the profits go toward the council’s meal delivery service. Mike Bessant, governmental affairs director for the SWA, said the first quarter of 2012 generated 300 millage points for seniors.

Each individual mill equals $2.40, Bessant said, bringing the total to $720. More money is expected now that the store has recouped its start-up costs, which was originally budgeted at $50,000.

Elaine Gore, the council’s deputy director, previously said the council’s food costs are roughly a third of their $2 million annual budget, and run between $30,000 and $35,000 a month.

The council brings meals to more than 400 seniors a week. Gore said they currently have 89 on a waiting list.

As the council works to get names off that waiting list, the resale store has allowed the SWA to get items out of its landfill.

Since the store opened, Crump said they’ve kept 28 to 30 tons of trash out of the landfill.

The store is located in three office-type buildings. One houses the merchandise on sale to the public, while the others are for storage.

The resale store was one strategy outlined in the authority’s Solid Waste Management Plan, which includes focusing on increased recycling efforts such as encouraging the public to buy products with less packaging.

Gore, SWA Executive Director Danny Knight and others traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich., in 2011 to view a resale that’s been in operation for more than 10 years. They based their operational model on what they saw on that trip, which was taking everything recyclable, cleaning it and then reselling it.

Bessant said Horry County has the only SWA in the state that operates its own resale store. There are, however, others like Habitat for Humanity.

“You have a lot of privately owned ones, but not publicly owned ones,” Bessant said.

The SWA’s store may have plenty of items for sale, but they’re running low on space.

Crump said they’ll talk about expanding the store during budget talks for the 2014 fiscal year. The board would first have to approve the measure before it’s sent before the Horry County Council for a formal adoption.