They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and nowhere is that truer than at the Southold Town reuse area. Whether you’re looking for furniture, lamps, toys, tools or household items, the site is a haven for junkers and repurposers.
Located inside the town transfer station on Cox Lane in Southold, the reuse area is situated in a clean corner of the property where still-usable items are dropped off to be claimed by new owners.
According to James Bunchuck, Southold Town’s solid waste coordinator, 100 tons of reusable items per year move through the site, which has been open since 1990.
“It’s been incredibly popular,” Bunchuck said. “People find treasures there you wouldn’t usually suspect.”
Even Bunchuck’s former mother-in-law found a “forever treasure” at the reuse area.
“She got the nicest bed a few years ago,” he said. “Full-sized, with a scallop shell foot and headboard, that was nicely painted and is now prominently displayed in one of her bedrooms.”
The town transfer facility is a fenced-off outdoor space supervised at all times by an attendant. Fifteen-minute parking regulations allow for easy drop-offs and give visitors time to shop.
While the trend of repurposing may have made the reuse area an increasingly popular destination of late, residents have been going there for years.
Astrid, for instance, is a Southold resident who calls herself a crafter and sometime repurposer.
“It runs in our family -— we’re all junkers,” she said. “I just love the stuff I find there. And then if I don’t use it, I can just bring it back, so no harm done.”
My first visit to the reuse area took place on a rainy Saturday, when everything was drenched. I wandered among the wet tables, chairs and lamps, wondering how three Nordic Track exercise machines ended up there at the same time. Then, just when I thought there couldn’t be anything worth taking, I spied two perfect starfish lying on a table filled with dishes. They were clean and very lovely, so I shook the water off them and popped them into the trunk of my car.
And just like that, I became a junker.
Pat, another Southold resident, regularly stops by the reuse area. When I visited, he was looking for kids’ toys for his grandchildren. He left triumphantly with a little girl’s bicycle, complete with training wheels.
“It might be something you’ve been looking for for years, like a tool,” Pat said. “You just don’t know what you’re going to find there. It’s as simple as that.”
Dr. Kristina Ivy of Southold has also refurbished a few items from the reuse area.
“I’ve gone a few times,” she said. “I found a side table there that was half-broken. I hammered it and painted on a coat of ‘Simply White’ by Benjamin Moore and it was good to go.”
My second visit to the reuse area took place on a sunny Friday, when car after car kept pulling up. Just like in a furniture store, people give each other plenty of room as they wander about. Usually, they give the place a once-over before honing in on specific items. When a car pulls up with new “junk,” everyone’s attention is redirected.
While I was there, two men pulled up in a small truck and unloaded several pieces of furniture. The first was a small wooden bench in good condition. It barely had all four legs on the ground before a woman claimed it.
Janet, a Cutchogue resident, was recently at the reuse area looking for play furniture for her grandchildren. She likes repurposing, but thinks the items left there should simply be used.
“The intent was for people who need it and now you’ve got antiques guys coming around,” she said while examining a black wooden coffee table that needed a fresh coat of paint. “As to repurposing, you could do some beautiful things with this stuff.”
Dr. Ivy said: “Part of the thrill of what I call ‘trashing’ is the unexpectedness of it. There’s no pattern to it and you never know what you’re going to find it. You just have to get out there and look.”
I admitted to myself that I too had succumbed to the thrill of trashing, or repurposing, after I spied a broken chalkboard easel that, with just a few modifications, could easily be hung from my kitchen wall. And that’s exactly what I plan to do with it.
“If someone can use it and it doesn’t go to waste, that’s the key factor,” Bunchuck said. “We want people to reuse things because so many good things get thrown out.”
The reuse area is located at the Southold Town Transfer Station at 6155 Cox Lane in Cutchogue. The site is free to enter Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.