Tucked away next to a recycling center on Cardiff’s Lamby Way is a shack full of treasures.
From paintings to closets, high heels to guitars, The Cabin is filled to the brim with all sorts of different things – you name it, they probably have it. But all these objects could have ended up in recycling bins, if the shop had not existed.
The cabin gives residents the option to donate their unwanted items to the Lamby Way Recycling Center’s on-site charity shop instead of dumping them in dumpsters.
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All donated items are checked for safety and then made available to customers at “bargain prices”. The store opened in August 2021 for a six-week soft launch and has been growing ever since.
“It was lovely,” said regional manager Tom Belcher of the store’s first few weeks of operation.
“The way he grew was so organic.
“More community groups found him as he went further and further. Cardiff had been waiting for something like this for a long time, so when it finally came to turning the key and turning on the lights, everyone was very ready. We have regulars coming now.
The shop was created as part of Waste Savers, a Newport-based social and charitable enterprise. The charity runs a network of shops across South Wales, The Cabin being just one of them.
Newport, for example, has the Tip Shop, Treherbert and Llantrisant have The Shed, A New Lease of Life is in Merthyr, The Den in Abertillery and The Steelhouse in New Inn. Three new stores have opened since Tom started at The Cabin in Cardiff in 2021, with more in the pipeline.
“There’s very little we don’t take – we’re not picky,” Tom said.
When you look around the store, this is clear. Its floor-to-ceiling shelves are stocked with all manner of items, with even more stock on raised wooden pallets outside.
An immaculate porcelain doll sits in its box above one of the shelves. On a lower shelf is a car rear-view mirror, and directly opposite is a cream-colored prom dress with a tulle skirt, wrapped in a protective plastic bag.
Outside, a wooden dining table with four matching chairs is available to buy for just £25.
However, the only items the store does not accept are safety equipment, such as car seats, high chairs, or helmets.
In terms of pricing, staff will consider the condition of an item before searching sites like eBay to see how many similar items are being sold – then they price them even lower.
“We make it too good to walk away from,” Tom said.
“That’s the impression we try to get in the store. The more space we can make on the shelves, the more people we can remove and the less it goes into black bags and residual waste.
As a customer approaches the checkout with both arms laden with pots and pans, she can’t believe her items total £3.
“Some people can’t go to Tesco to buy a £15 kettle, but they can come here to buy a £3 kettle,” Tom said.
DVDs are also a particularly popular item to donate to the store.
“It’s the VHS of the day, because people are switching to streaming now,” Tom said.
“Some of our customers can’t afford to subscribe to Netflix, so they’ll come and buy 10 DVDs for a pound. Some people come in and ask ‘Can I buy the whole shelf please?’
The store also offers bundles of children’s DVDs, separate from its main video rental, for sale to young families.
A large number of electrical items are also donated to the shop, including old televisions and stereos, all of which are tested before being sold..
“They don’t stay very long – it’s first come, first lucky,” Tom said.
A large number of bikes have also been donated to the store, with a children’s bike available for just £10, while a bike usually priced at £420 can be had for £100.
“We can’t just resell them. They have to pass security checks depending on their objective, so we offer them on the Peak Alternative Curriculum,” said Tom.
“They teach those who can’t find their way in mainstream school and give them skills to help them find jobs.”
As part of the program, students repair bikes so they can be sold to new homes from the store, replacing parts that need to be repaired. A portion of the store’s profits help fund the program, which is also funded by the lottery.
The Cabin is also part of the Kickstart program, which offers a six-month job placement to people between the ages of 18 and 25 who are at risk of long-term unemployment. The store has had five Kick Start placements, two of which are now in permanent positions in stores across Wales.
“It was great, especially with Covid flooding the job market with more people,” Tom said.
The store is run by a mix of managers, vendors and volunteers, as well as members of the Kick Start program. Tom has been with the store since it opened in August.
At the back of the shop, an entire section is dedicated to children’s toys, with many children coming to play with them, Tom explains. Some customers even take the toys home and come back to give them away, rather than throwing them away.
Among the furniture, dishes, toys and books are more unusual objects. When entering the store, for example, a customer asks me how much a pair of skis cost.
“Once we got a huge stuffed banana,” Tom said.
“We try to keep our posts on Facebook as attractive as possible, so we posted it and wrote something like ‘We’ve become bananas’.
“There was also a complete ice hockey goalie set that they dressed me in for Facebook.
“We also had very old Cardiff Boys School books. There was a spelling book with all the students’ names in it – it dated back to 1942 or 1943.”
The store emphasizes the importance of reusing items.
“Reuse is a key part of the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ cycle,” Tom said.
The store is owned by the city council and had been under construction for almost three years before it opened last year.
“It’s fantastic to be a part of it,” said Tom.
“People are more aware of being able to bring [their items] here. Many other charity shops have not accepted donations, especially because of the new Covid variant.
“[Donations] have certainly increased. Items we can’t take, we know other places will take. Although it does not go through our shop, it still reduces these numbers [of waste] down. It’s definitely on the upward trend in donations.
Tom says he discusses or educates customers about the effect that reusing items, rather than throwing them away, has on the circular economy.
“For some, it’s a place to come and buy essentials that they can’t get brand new. Some people see us as another charity store they can donate to,” he said.
Sometimes staff at the recycling station tell those who are about to put their items in the recycling dumpster to take them to the store instead, Tom says.
People also come to the store to buy and restore the furniture, reselling the recycled items.
“It’s kind of like a micro-economy of reusers,” Tom said.
“It’s amazing what we can integrate, but it’s amazing what people throw away. People come in and say, “I’m so glad it’s been given new life.
“People have been really grateful to have a place like this as many charity shops are not accepting or have not reopened after lockdown.”
The store tries to take as many items as possible, reordering stock if necessary. It’s also become a place where teachers can buy things for school displays and play areas, says Jackie Selwood, sales clerk at The Cabin.
With teachers paying for items out of their own pockets, staff have started putting together ‘project boxes’ of items to purchase.
“They can fill up a car for £15,” Jackie said.
She added that customers have become regulars, developing good relationships with staff.
“We even had customers bring us cakes,” she says.
Tom says there are several reasons why the store is important.
“It’s the reduction in lost numbers, which is a good reason. It is for low income households who cannot afford shopping on the high street who can come here to get the items they need.
“It’s the volunteer program we have in our stores. They give their time for free, which is fantastic. It’s the Peak Alternate Curriculum to give kids a second chance.”
“Anyone can come and buy at the shop, it’s open to everyone.
“We see all horizons. For some people, it’s the only interaction they’ve had all day, and post-lockdown, it’s vital. »
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