Photo Credit: Urban Ore Instagram
Urban Ore in Berkeley, California, is a magical wonderland of artifacts and junk looking for new life.They contract with the city of Berkeley to salvage items from the Berkeley Recycling Center (Solid Waste Transfer Station), and today they salvage two to six tons of waste every day! Urban Ore is the kind of place that artists and creators of all sorts wander through looking for something to spark our imagination. When I was a kid, my dad was a carpenter and we'd go there on weekends looking for materials for his projects. Today, Urban Ore is the place where I found the inspiration for what became this really cool business called Plant Chandeliers.
Wandering through the lighting department I found a spooky-beautiful old brass "Maria Theresa" chandelier for $45, it was broken and dingy but I knew I could do something cool with it. (PSA: The same chandeliers sell at Antiques markets & Ebay for $75-200+. So, even with a few comments on the internet saying Urban Ore is expensive, if you research the market you know you are getting good deals there.)
Eventually, I added little cups (or bobesche, in lighting terms) to the chandelier and planted succulents in it. Today, it's in my parent's backyard under a little tree. I ended up having 5 chandeliers holding plants of all sorts hanging up around our living room before I realized maybe I could try selling them. Urban Ore's business model made it possible for me to have access to really unique vintage and antique parts that I used to build my business, and develop new ideas and products. It's awesome to know we're part of the re-use ecosystem, and I hear that Urban Ore is taking the next step in their journey and becoming a worker-owned CoOp!
Want to give it a try? Here are some of the best strategies for finding cool stuff @ Urban Ore:
- Check them out on weekdays too, not just weekends.
- Embrace the mess: It's an organized mess, but if you're more used to big box stores you might experience a bit of culture shock. It's a giant warehouse with many nooks and items that have come from all around, most in need of cleaning and repair. You might also experience the occasional interesting smell:)
- Pricing: Most things are tagged, but the employees will give you good deals if you're buying a lot. "But they get it for free, why do they charge so much?" Nothing is free, and to get the items sorted and salvaged there, imagine the hours of labor required plus the cost of doing business in the Bay Area.
- Keep an open mind and employ your instinctual human hunting skills. I can't tell you the cool stuff I've found there. In my last visit, I bought a $65 antique hand-painted trunk maybe from Russia or Spain TBD and a $30 giant rattan wall hanging for my plants.
- Urban Ore is a Bay Area institution! Respect the people, the space, and the stuff, and it can be a great resource for your next cool project or business.
- Pro-Tip: If you're germaphobic, bring some work gloves while you shop.
Other Bay Area salvage yards to check out (in no particular order):
- Omega Salvage, Berkeley, CA - A high end salvage yard
- This & That, San Pablo/Richmond, CA - cool stuff but be ready to dig through some mess.
- The ReUse People, Oakland, CA
- Building Resources, San Francisco, CA
PS: We're not affiliated with, or sponsored by, Urban Ore or any other salvage yard. We're just fans of their business and recycled materials.
Been to other salvage yards or cool spots for reclaimed items? Let us know in the comments below.