The East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse

I have been having a ball in Berkeley, catching up with dear friends over lavish dinners, traipsing around my old stomping grounds, and eating my way down some of the most delicious streets in the world. Yesterday my peregrinations led me to one of my favorite places on earth: the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse. Eric found it one afternoon when he was out exploring, and I have been hooked ever since. It started as a resource for teachers, a place where they could get supplies for their students at very low cost, since everything in the store has been donated. But now, happily, it is open to the public! It was so high on my list of places I wanted to visit while I was here, and I spent a lovely morning there:)

I now lovingly refer to it as “The Depot,” and it is absolutely my favorite place for creative inspiration. There is so much awesome stuff in there, and it is all so cheap! Even though I go hog-wild sometimes, I rarely end up spending more than $10. That is a big win in my book!

One of the most magical things about the Depot is that you never know what you’ll find. A box full of old reading glasses? Sure! A pile of postcards from the past four decades? Absolutely! More pretty paper and book binding supplies than you can shake a stick at? For sure! I wanted to take you on a little tour of the glories of my recent visit, showing you just a few things that made my heart go pitter patter:) Here is a box full of old puzzle pieces. Imagine what you could do with them! (At least that’s what I tend to do!)

And then there was this pile of beautiful bottle caps!

Usually there is also some scientific-type stuff, like beakers or flasks. Today I found these pretty…fuses? I am not sure what they are, but I like them! In case you might be thinking this stuff isn’t worth buying (I hope not, but I do recognize that one’s woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure!), bear in mind that it all costs pennies. You could get yourself a big bag full of bottle caps or puzzle pieces or fuses (?) for a few bucks. That sounds like a bonanza to me!

Moving along through the store, we come next to these fun little buttons, printed in many different languages. I bought a big bag of Russian ones when I was teaching Beginning Russian, and I gave them away as prizes and for Russian holidays. It was awesome to see them on my kids’ backpacks and coats:)

Another category of Depot stuff might be called Blast from the Past. I present to you…floppy disks and Zip disks! Remember those big hunks of plastic? I think my undergraduate thesis is saved on one of them, which means I may never see it again (that would be okay with me!)

The Depot is a mecca for those looking for all types of outdated musical recordings. Here are some records, but there are also tapes and usually 8-Tracks as well. One time Eric bought an old player piano reel here, in great condition. So awesome.

And, of course, the Depot is full of traditional art and craft supplies. I *love* getting sewing stuff here. Look at these pretty zippers! I totally bought some!

Embossing powder! Pretty!

The Depot also usually has really great fabrics. I got the prettiest silk here for $1 per yard. Unheard of! Today they had lots of nice jersey knits, and I wished I had more room in my suitcase…

My favorite item in this category, hands down, is the vintage sewing patterns. They are *amazing*! I once picked up a bunch of fun 80s patterns, but the ones today were mostly from the 60s-70s. And they are 25 cents each. I tend to go a little wild with these!

I know I have already shown you an incredible amount of awesome stuff, but I have saved my favorite category of stuff for last: Personal History. There are boxes and boxes of old photographs, capturing significant moments, moments worthy of preserving back in the day when we only had 24 exposures instead of nearly limitless memory cards. I love looking through these old pictures and imagining the lives they belonged to, the emotions they captured, the meaning of the moments that someone wanted to encapsulate. There are usually also a lot of old slides (thus combining the Blast from the Past and Personal History categories), which are fun to hold up to the light and decipher, if only in a negative exposure.

The postcards also fit into this category, and I love reading their antiqued messages, but today I found something I had never seen before: a box full of old ticket stubs. This intrigued me, as it indicates a deliberate act of preservation of memory. Someone had an experience and used this tiny object to encapsulate it, to embody a moment that passed them by. I love to imagine what those experiences must have been like, and to thank these past collectors for passing their memories on to us. I believe so strongly in the power and importance of the object in human experience, and especially in memory, and rifling through these treasures at the Depot truly takes me to different times and different places, lets me walk in the shoes of people I’d never have the chance to know otherwise, the beautifully scuffed wooden floorboards creaking under my feet.

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