About Urban Ore


Got a question? It has probably been asked before…

What are your store hours?
We are open Monday through Saturday from 8:30am – 7 pm and on Sundays from 10am – 7 pm. We do not accept Drop Offs after 5pm.
What days are you open?
We are open 7 days a week including all holidays except Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. We tend to close early on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
What do you and don’t you accept for donation?
See the Drop Off page.
Where do I bring my stuff?
Our Building Materials receiving department accepts items such as doors, windows, lumber, toilets, sinks, fencing, and so on. Our General Store receiving department accepts items such as clothing, furniture, electronics. See the Drop Off page for more details.
How is your store organized?
Most Building Materials merchandise can withstand the weather and is housed outside.  Doors are inside, along with the General Store merchandise.  Inside the General Store, merchandise is organized into departments including the Gallery, which focuses on high-quality furniture, collectibles, clothing, and jewelry; Arts and Media, which carries books, electronics, music, movies, and art and office supplies; Hardware, which carries tools, locks, knobs, motors, and lighting; and Cabinets.  We also have sporting goods, gas stoves, some medical equipment such as crutches or walkers, and lots of miscellaneous curiosities.
Is Urban Ore a non-profit?
Urban Ore is a for-profit enterprise.  Part of our point is to promote and provide the services of  reuse and recycling while being a profitable retail endeavor. As the world’s resources are depleted, this type of for-profit eco-retail will likely become more common. Staff incentives include income-sharing and profit-sharing.
Are dropoffs tax deductable?
Since we are a for-profit company, we do not offer tax deductions.
What area or region do you service?
Urban Ore has two operational faces. We are a disposal service so people can let go of unwanted but still-useful goods without wasting them, and a retail store where other people can find things they want at a low price. Many people with deep environmental consciousness are reluctant to buy new merchandise if they can find what they need used. We serve the San Francisco Bay Area – or as far as customers are willing to drive, which is sometimes a hundred miles or even more. We are also consultants who design Zero Waste resource-recovery facilities both domestically and abroad.
Where do you buy your used materials?
We pay for some of what is brought in, but not all, and we pay only a small percentage of what we sell things for. Even when we get things for free, we put a lot of labor into cleaning up people’s unwanted things and making them presentable, then merchandising them and helping customers find what they’re looking for. People in the community bring in about 75% of our merchandise. Folks will often come to us before going to the dump, where they will be charged a fee. The other 25% of our merchandise is collected by the Outside Trader Department, which makes pickups in response to calls; or is salvaged by our Salvage and Recycling Department. The salvagers save still-useful goods from being wasted even after people have paid to dump them at the City of Berkeley transfer station. They also convert un-resalable objects into commodities for recycling. They regularly send nonferrous and ferrous metals, and glass to market, and other materials such as ceramics to non-income-generating recycling. We want to recycle as much as we can figure out how to.
Why do you charge for items that you salvaged from the dump? Shouldn’t they be free?
We have expenses.  We pay our employees a living wage with benefits, which takes 54¢ of every dollar.  After that we have the mortgage, liability insurance, property tax, utilities, and lots of other expenses. We want to show the world that a business can be profitable while also doing good for the environment.  Our prices are still affordable and very competitive with secondhand stores that deal in selected materials.  Our merchandise would have been wasted and would have become pollution if we weren’t here.
Do you offer refunds?
We offer refunds for up two weeks from the purchase date on most items. We don’t offer refunds on most electronics. Testing stations are available onsite for customers to test electronics. Sometimes – not all the time – salespeople may make special arrangements in special circumstances.
Do you rent things?
Yes, in fact we do rent things to theater groups, teachers, and sometimes to advertising agencies. You must make arrangements with a salesperson beforehand. Items are purchased at full price and can be returned for a 50% refund with no time restriction, provided the objects are still in their original condition. Things that are damaged during use cannot be returned.
Do you sell gift certificates?
Yes we do. They can be purchased at our cash registers or over the phone with a major credit card.
Do you offer tours of your facility?
We do offer tours. Click here for more information on scheduling a tour.
Can I bring my dog?
Urban Ore is a dog-friendly establishment, but dogs must be leashed at all times and under the owner’s control!  Also, owners are expected to pick up any droppings and clean up other bodily substances. If your dog excretes anything, please ask a staff person for help.
Is there anything good to eat around there?
Berkeley is gourmet heaven. Within a couple of blocks, the West Berkeley Bowl grocery has a deli and cafe, and the excellent Tacos El Rey taco truck parks most of the day on Ashby Avenue on the way back to I-80. Cafe Cacao serves lunch and dinner in the old Scharffenberger chocolate factory on Seventh Street. The downhome but upscale 900 Grayson at Seventh Street is delicious and sometimes crowded.  If you’re driving, San Pablo Avenue has several good restaurants and, at the corner of Dwight Avenue, an offshoot of San Francisco’s iconic coffeehouse Caffe Trieste.  University Avenue, about a mile away, has many good restaurants of many ethnicities.  Neighboring Emeryville has many good food carts and restaurants, with a fine food court at the Emeryville Public Market on Shellmound, featuring 20 vendors using compostable plates and utensils.
What kind of employment do you have? Is it volunteer or do you have paid employees, and how many?
We don’t have volunteers, just paid employees – about 38 at this point, although we may grow soon. They earn what the City of Berkeley calls a “living wage,” that includes an income-sharing performance incentive, and with benefits that include profit-sharing, paid vacations and fully-employer-paid health, dental, and vision plans for all fulltime staff and all their dependents. It’s retail, so nearly everyone works at least one weekend day, and many staff work both weekend days. The work requires a lot of physical labor, a tolerance for dust, a will to create order out of chaos, curiosity about objects, and a love of people and planet.