The sound of relaxing music fills the room as customers find unique treasures and enjoy home-cooked meals at Gathering AK Cafe. Piles of old and new treasures combined fill Anchorage re:MADE, where clothing, antiques, repaired furniture, art and unique, repurposed creations are donated or consigned.
A variety of products can be found at Anchorage re:MADE. Photo courtesy of Anchorage re:MADE. The non-profit business, run by volunteers, repurposes donated and salvaged materials from the Anchorage Municipality Transfer Station to sell. re:MADE donates to charities such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Bean’s Cafe and Catholic Social Services. It has partnered with over 40 nonprofit organizations since Patti Buist opened it in 2015.
“She wanted it to be a place where people to collaborate creatively, a place where artists could gather, repurpose and design products together with the purpose of helping people in need and keeping things out of the landfill,” community networker Jill Kaniut, a full-time volunteer at re:MADE for nearly two years, said.
While volunteers donate a lot of time and energy into re:MADE, they feel that what they get in return is worthwhile. “I really couldn’t believe that they weren’t getting paid, yet they were so willing and joyful to be there. It gave me a sense that they really believed in the place,” UAA student Theresa Thomas, who has shopped at re:MADE, said.
Group volunteer coordinator Danny Hester repairs and repurposes furniture, such as headboards and chairs, into benches for re:MADE. “They are trying to help people,” Hester said. “That’s part of my heart — to meet people’s needs and care about them.”
While many of the items for sale are remade into store-quality creations with fair prices, others are left untouched as potential projects for customers. Remade teaches classes on life skills, such as cooking in their approved kitchen and cafe and creative repurposing projects. They provide resources and training for people to develop skills and reach their goals.
Darcy Moxon, who has volunteered at Anchorage re:MADE, repurposes furniture. “It’s a mutual partnership where I dedicate my time and energy to help Remade and that gives me access to the tools [and donated supplies],” Moxon said.
re:MADE accomplished a lot in 2018. It saved 10,900 pounds of materials from the landfill. It helped 19 new businesses start up through small business training. Over a hundred volunteers contributed almost 10,000 hours. It opened a coffee bar, which has grown into the Gathering AK Cafe. Each day of the week, a different chef serves a different nationality or type of food including Mexican, Cuban, barbeque and sweet and savory.
This year, the re:MADE community is trying to expand its volunteer staff and raise funds to buy the building that they are currently working out in.
Volunteers are welcome to drop in or sign up to take on positions. Remade currently needs people to manage the clothing section, serve as a chef or barista and help clean.
Through donations, the re:MADE team hopes to be debt free by 2022. “We were supposed to come up with 100,000 dollars, which we haven’t been able to do,” Kaniut said. While re:MADE has monetary needs, its main focus is on the people. By partnering with like-minded organizations and individuals to reach their goals, re:MADE has fostered a caring, creative and empowered community. “For a long time [our goal] was surviving… Now we are trying to thrive,” Phil Wright, who contributes carpentry, sewing and makes licence plate signs, said. Anchorage re:MADE is open Monday through Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and Thursday 11 a.m.-8 p.m. In the summer, vendors sell their own products at Saturday re:MADE Markets from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. The next Saturday Market is June 8. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.anchorageremade.com.
Frank Canha thought downtown Anchorage’s food offerings could use some diversity. “I thought it would be nice and refreshing to have something other than a hot dog cart on 4th Avenue,” said the former accountant and Fairbanks native, who returned to Alaska after 16 years in San Diego. His plan? To open Frank’s Bar-B-Que. The food? Char-grilled, wood-smoked meats (Canha uses mesquite), a style of cooking known as California barbecue.
Then Canha’s permit application hit an unexpected snag. “My cart was four-inches too wide to be downtown,” he said with a chuckle. “I was ready to chop four-inches off that thing.” His head low, Canha was reevaluating his options when someone at the Municipality of Anchorage Health Department suggested he contact Anchorage re:MADE, an upcycling/thrift store that rents out its commercial kitchen. Canha approached re:MADE owner Patti Buist, thinking she’d offer him the use of their kitchen and a space to set up his cart. Instead, she invited him to be part of Gathering AK Café, a pop-up style restaurant re:MADE planned to open in its café space. Canha was beside himself at the offer.
“I just thought, ‘Are you kidding, this beautiful café?’” he said. “I was dumbfounded because I’d been trying so hard to get my cart up to spec. I couldn’t believe this opportunity had opened up.”
Gathering AK Café, which celebrated its grand opening on April 15, features a different guest chef each day. Canha serves his California barbecue, which includes pulled pork, sausage, and tri-tip sandwiches every Friday. Other days of the week you’ll find Cuban Bred Café serving traditional Cuban sandwiches; Filipino dishes and afternoon tea service from Gigi’s Tea Shop; organic, vegan and gluten-free offerings from Good Little Bakery; baked goods and sandwiches from Somebunny’s Baked Goods and Grandma’s Goodies; homey casseroles and sweets from Alaska’s Sweet & Savory, and; Guatemalan food with an American twist from Mochileros Street Food.
Keeping with re:MADE’s mission of empowering people to make a positive change in their life, the café gives budding entrepreneurs an opportunity to experience what it takes to successfully operate a food business before jumping in head first.
“A lot of restaurants fail, and (the owners) never had a chance to really hone in on what their vision and dream really is,” said Annette Buist, a volunteer with Anchorage re:MADE who helped get the guest chef program up and running. “This is an option for those who have the passion to work and want to see what it takes to run their own small business before they get in and become overwhelmed.”
The chance to learn before making a full-time commitment is what drew Gigi Campbell, owner of Gigi’s Tea Shop, to the café. A retired nurse, Campbell offered tea classes in her home and had toyed with the idea of opening her own tea shop. So far, the café experience has offered personal and professional insights and helped narrow her vision.
“After doing this, maybe that dream was just too much. I still want to enjoy my life and not be tied down in this kind of work,” she said with a laugh. “I can see how hard it is to work in the restaurant business and I’m just so glad that it’s once a week.”
Buist said the goal is that chefs ultimately transition out of the café. “We’d like to be almost like a boot camp,” she explained. “We want to be able to equip people so they can come in and then they leave and open a kitchen or food truck.”
Mochileros Street Food, which worked the café on Tuesdays during its soft opening, is an example of the type of success Buist hopes guest chefs will achieve. Co-owners Ana Pleitez and Whitney Parker utilized re:MADE’s kitchen to make its creamy bacon, chorizo and kale soup for 907 Alehouse’s Soup’r Bowl this past February. Their success at that event, coupled with their café service and Pleitez’ savvy Facebook marketing, helped earn the pair a large following. Their food truck now has bookings all summer.
“We’ve talked to Annette, expressing our gratitude to the café and to the re:MADE store because they opened the doors for us,” Pleitez said. “They give us the opportunity to get people to know our food.”
Canha hopes the café will do the same for him. Until then, he’s just enjoying the ride. “I’m living my dream right now,” he said. “I’m just so proud to be part of this program. It’s been a journey, and it’s just all falling in to place all at the right time.” Gathering AK Café is located at 13500 Old Seward Highway and is open Monday, Wednesday and Saturday from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Gathering-AK-Cafe for the weekly guest chef schedule. If you’re interested in being part of the guest chef program, visit www.gatheringak.com/are-you-a-chef-or-baker.html.
You’d be forgiven for assuming that Anchorage re:MADE is a run-of-the-mill thrift shop. It certainly gives off a discount-store vibe when you first pull up. Donated items are piled around the front entrance, waiting to be sifted, sorted and stocked (or discarded, if they’re completely unsalvageable).
Inside, a hodgepodge collection of furniture, kitchen wares, accessories, clothes, toys, artwork and other assorted odds and ends are jammed in to every nook and cranny of the two-story, 17,000 square foot building.
But it takes just a few minutes of browsing to realize that Anchorage re:MADE isn’t your typical thrift shop. A sign on the front entry table advertises classes focused on crafts, cooking and computer basics. Jewelry displays hold Scrabble tile necklaces, artsy photo pendants, and earrings with “feathers” made from bicycle tires.
Stuffed salmon and whales are crafted from denim jeans and corduroy. A skirt in the second-floor clothing section is made from a men’s button-down shirt and some fleece remnants, and mannequins carry purses designed from furniture upholstery remnants.
“People are recognizing we don’t want to throw anything away, but they don’t know what to do with it,” says Jill Kaniut, community networker and full-time volunteer. “So, they give it to us, and we try to come up with products.”
A non-profit organization, Anchorage re:MADE began three years ago with the motto “Resale. Repurpose. Renew.” It is built on the heart and vision of executive director Patti Buist, who in the beginning stored items in her garage and sold her artful creations at community craft fairs, which is how she and Jill met.
They began selling repurposed items – old cabinet fronts lined with hooks to serve as a key or coat rack, painted picture frames, and handmade signs with whimsical sayings – at a Huffman coffeehouse before moving into the current location, Jill says. A large workspace on the second floor is where the restorations happen, and it’s a picture of organized chaos. Clothing and fabrics are piled and sorted in the sewing area alongside sewing machines, with paper supplies in another corner of the space.
“Somebody will take up scrapbooking, and then a month later say, ‘This isn’t for me!’, and bring it to us,” Jill says.
There’s almost always a piece of furniture wet with paint resting on tables or stools, and random items are scattered about, waiting to be transformed by a spark of inspiration. Often, Jill says, transforming donations into something sellable involves a bit of trial and error. When Jill had the idea to turn old jeans into stuffed salmon, the volunteer seamstress’ first pattern didn’t resemble a salmon at all. Working together, they tweaked the pattern until the design was perfect. That give and take is just part of the store’s appeal, Jill says. “Part of the beauty of what we do here is people get to be creative together and collaborate,” she says. “Everybody comes with their own set of different creative whatever. You never know what someone’s going to do with something.”
Donations come not just from people clearing out their storage spaces, but from local businesses as well. An interior designer passed along old fabric samples, which were turned into purses. A pallet of cabinet fronts from a dealer closing up shop became wall hangings. And hundreds of clear plastic dress protectors from David’s Bridal now serve as the inner lining in reusable car trash bags, themselves made from donated fabric remnants.
While repairing and reselling usable goods – and repurposing (or upcycling) items that still have life left in them, albeit in a slightly different form – was a large part of Patti’s vision, the organization’s heart lies in helping those in need through community partnerships and economic empowerment.
“We get to be a blessing to (community partners) and give stuff back,” Jill says. “That’s one of the most exciting things we’re doing.” In 2017, Anchorage re:MADE partnered with more than 30 community organizations and agencies across Anchorage, donating much-needed furniture, clothing, home goods, and other items. Jill says she was moved to tears last year as she shopped the store for a woman moving out of Clare House, Catholic Social Services’ emergency shelter, and into an apartment.
“I have a degree in interior design and I didn’t know where God was going to lead me in that,” Jill says. “I was just crying that day.” She collected everything Clare House had requested and more, and put her interior design skills to work to give the woman a coordinated ensemble that would make the apartment feel like home.
The organization has also awarded several micro grants that helps people make a product to sell in the store. One recent grant was to an elderly woman with vision difficulties; she used the grant to purchase materials to make dog collars and leashes, giving her some much-needed income, Jill says. Volunteers also sell their creations in the store for a portion of the proceeds, which empowers them to put their skills to use and earn extra income, she adds.
Because the store’s mission is to help as many people as possible, every employee – Patti and Jill included – is an unpaid volunteer. Jill says there’s always a need for people who can sew or have a crafty side, as well as for people who can sort through donations, work the register, or supervise a shift. If you’re interested in helping, she says, don’t let not knowing exactly how you can pitch in deter you. “If you can operate a paintbrush, we can put you to work,” Jill says. Anchorage re:MADE is located at 13500 Old Seward Hwy. and is open Monday – Saturday from 11 a.m.–5 p.m., and until 8 p.m. on Thur. If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer or want to check out their classes offerings, visit anchorageremade.com.
Come and visit us today at 13500 Old Seward Hwy, Anchorage, AK 99515 @2020 Anchorage re:MADE store.