New Store Lets Students Swap for Free
Follow the clanging pipes and humming florescent lights deep into the underbelly of Asia House basement, and you will find a unique spot. Somewhere between a Salvation Army and a hallway free box gone wild, the Oberlin Recyclers’ latest project can be found behind a hand-lettered sign proclaiming “Free Store.”
The Free Store, which is in a large rectangular room that once housed the College’s telethon headquarters features a wall of clothing plus several bureaus and bookshelves of assorted second-hand goods. Customers can try on the threads in a makeshift changing room consisting of a sheet hung from two panels while Pauleen the mannequin sports the latest fashions and David Bowie plays on a boom box.
According to volunteer and member of the Oberlin Recyclers College senior Kym Buzdygon, the Free Store is an effort to foster “source reduction,” or in other words, direct people toward used goods before buying new things from Wal-Mart.
“People don’t want to wait until the big swap to get rid of [unwanted stuff].” The store “allows people a… place to get rid of old things, and get new things, and who doesn’t love free stuff?” Buzdygon said.
In addition, fellow volunteer and College sophomore Zibby Greenebaum pointed out that before the Free Store, there was only one thrift store in town.
The room was given to the Oberlin Recyclers rent-free without many stipulations.
“This will stay as long as we get a lot of people to prove that it’s a valuable space,” said Greenebaum. Also everything has to be washed upon donation, the cost of which is covered by the suggested 25 cent donation.
The opening of the Free Store several weeks ago was the fruit of a long period of waiting.
“Space on campus is really, really limited, so we had our names down for about a year before a sufficient space opened up,” explained Buzdygon. “The main obstacle was just getting space. Keith [Watkins, facilities manager] and Molly [Tyson, director of residential education] were really supportive of it.”
The Oberlin Recyclers are a well-established, although unchartered, student group. They are only allowed to have ten paid employees at time. “We have to prove that we’re a job on campus that is worth paying,” Greenebaum said.
Despite limited employees, current projects include a campus waste audit and Earth Day festivities. They hope to advertise the Free Store more to faculty and staff to augment the steady trickle of students they have seen.
The Recyclers operate under what Buzdygon calls “the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle.”
Students can abide by these “R’s” Monday through Thursday at 7-9 p.m. and Saturday 1-3 p.m.