New life for old tools at Colonie store

Is your basement or garage packed with old tools? If you donate them to the Tool Box in Colonie, you
An assortment of used hand saws at the Tool Box in Colonie.
An assortment of used hand saws at the Tool Box in Colonie.

Categories: Life & Arts

Dad’s old hammers and chisels. Rakes and shovels from Grandma’s garden.

Is your basement or garage packed with old tools?

If you donate them to the Tool Box in Colonie, you can tidy up and lend a hand to senior citizens at the same time.

“We clean them up and put them on the shelves and sell them for a fraction of the price of new. It’s a way of adding additional life to these tools,” says Edward Neary, executive director of Colonie Senior Service Centers Inc.

The money earned at CSSC’s thrift shop supports Umbrella of Colonie, a service that helps seniors with household chores and other tasks so that they can remain in their homes.

The Tool Box opened last September at 1693 Central Ave., which for many years was the site of Colonie Village Pharmacy and most recently, Fluffalicious Bake Shoppe.

The shop’s big sign, which has a handle on it like a tool box, grabs the attention of drivers along the busy highway.

“They see the sign and they are curious,” Neary says.

Inside the shop, do-it-yourselfers or first-time homeowners can find just about everything they need to do household projects.

Smaller tools, like screwdrivers and wrenches, are displayed in colorful plastic bins. Garden rakes lean against the wall. Power tools, including sanders and drills, are lined up on shelves. In another aisle, dozens of vintage hand saws with wooden handles of different colors and patinas are fanned out across another shelf. Big items, like electric lawn mowers and table saws are set up near the front window.

“We don’t have to be like Lowe’s or Home Depot,” says Neary.

Good bargains

Because everything is used, the prices are low.

A screwdriver costs 50 cents, a hammer is $1.50. A vintage saw is $3.50, rakes and hoes are $2 each, it’s $5 for a Black and Decker hand sander. For $2, you can fill a brown paper bag with nails, screws or bolts.

“People wander through and see if they need some of the stuff,” says Neary. “It’s good for someone who has a job to do. You can buy a tool for $2 and bring it back to be donated again.”

Fifteen volunteers, 14 of them senior citizens, keep the shop going three days a week.

“Thirty to 40 percent are women,” Neary says.

They stock the shelves, run the cash register and in a back room, they sort through donations and decide what to put out for sale and what to sell for scrap. All power equipment is tested before it goes out to the sales floor.

“Some of it is just junk. We try to get money for it. Nothing goes to waste or into the landfill,” says Neary.

Gas-powered tools and lawnmowers are the only items that are not accepted.

The volunteers are always happy to answer customers’ questions, says Ariana Wilson, media communications specialist for Colonie Senior Services Center Inc.

“Some of the tools are so old, but the volunteers know what they are,” says Wilson.

The idea for the shop came from the Albany Guardian Society, which looked at senior programs around the state and discovered the Tool Thrift Shop in the Rochester suburb of Fairport.

“We went and learned all about it. We wanted to adopt it and bring it to the Capital Region,” says Neary.

Eleven months after the doors opened, the store is taking in $400 to $500 a week, he says.

“We did it to support people in the Umbrella program. Cleaning, shopping, honey-do lists, pet-sitting. It’s all these things and more. It’s not just home repairs. It’s much more than that.”

The Tool Box is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday. To donate items, call the store at 608-4758 during operating hours or leave a message.

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