Spare Parts' newly opened store connects artists with materials otherwise destined for the landfill

click to enlarge Spare Parts' newly opened store connects artists with materials otherwise destined for the landfill
Courtesy of Spare Parts
Printmaker Maggi Peachey’s eyes were opened to the potential of creative reuse on a Denver art walk.

The San Antonio artist stumbled upon a store with that offered reused materials at discount prices to creatives and other resourceful shoppers. After some research, she was shocked to discover her hometown offered no such retail option.

Now, thanks in part to Peachey, that’s no longer true.

Spare Parts, San Antonio’s first-ever creative reuse store opened in December. The shop, located at 13491 Wetmore Road, offers discount art supplies including paint, paper, beads, jewelry, office essentials and sewing items that otherwise might have been destined for the trash bin.

After her eye-opening Denver trip, Peachey joined Spare Parts, then a mobile operation that had grown out of serving local teachers. She helped the members develop a business plan and actualize its goal of establishing a brick-and-mortar shop. Now, she serves as the nonprofit’s committee chairwoman.

“Purchasing these fine-art and quality supplies can get very expensive, and that can be intimidating,” Peachey said. “By offering a selection of pre-owned items, it gives artist like me an opportunity to explore and maybe try out a new medium that otherwise I wouldn’t even look at before.”

Spare Parts founder and executive director Mary Elizabeth Cantú said the nonprofit fosters creativity through sustainability. The shop connects creatives lacking in supplies with environmentally sustainable resource, in turn, keeping them out of landfills.

“Everything you see around you has the potential to be trash. Everything,” Cantú said. “And we know there isn’t room in our landfills for this stuff. We have to be smarter about the way we interact with the things around us, because there’s no such thing as throwing something away. It doesn’t disappear; it goes somewhere and usually stays there for a long time. Our creative community can help with diverting trash. They can transform it into beautiful art or turn it into a creative project.”

Due to COVID-19 precautions, Spare Parts has made its wares available to local creatives online and curbside pick-up. However, it’s now taking limited in-store shopping appointments with its next opening planned for January 16-17. The group will announce future openings via its Facebook page.

Hub for educators

Cantú said her interest in connecting resourceful creatives with recycled materials started 10 years ago.

At the time, she was working as an art teacher and faced a problem common to educators — budget cuts had dried up funds for supplies.

When she heard about a local retailer going out of business, she rushed to scoop up creative materials that would otherwise have been thrown away.

“There was so much stuff that they said to come back with a U-Haul,” Cantú recalled. “That’s when I realized this opportunity was bigger than me, and I began collecting other pre-loved items for teachers across the city.”

Operating out of garages and storage units, her creative reuse organization channeled landfill-destined materials to those who could put them to use for creative projects. Cantú organized giveaways to help get those items into the hands of educators often left to buy supplies out-of-pocket.

‘For the whole community’

Middle-school art teacher Eric Cavazos became aware of Spare Parts at one of those events.

“It was like walking into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory,” said Cavazos, who now serves on the organization’s board. “I thought, ‘These people get me. They know how art teachers think.’”

The Spare Parts retail shop’s soft opening included a private VIP shopping event. Cavazos likened that in-store shopping experience to a playground for his mind.

“It’s truly an art teacher’s dream thrift store,” Cavazos said. “You get to use your imagination and brainstorm on the spot for future art projects you can do with the items in the store.”

“My favorite items are true spare parts,” he said, describing how corks and bottle caps he picked up during the excursion could be used to create small figurines. “The possibilities are endless.”

Peachey said she hopes the store finds an audience beyond San Antonio’s art community.

“We have a lot of office supplies, so if you are looking for one sticky notebook or a few paperclips, we have that,” she said. “If you’re homeschooling your kids now and you need just a few crayons that you’re missing, we have that.”
Other items could end up becoming one-of-a-kind gifts or an addition to someone’s wardrobe, she added.

“We have a ton of beading and jewelry and some interesting and unique housewares,” Peachey said. “Really, it’s for the whole community.”

Those interested in donating to Spare Parts can arrange a drop-off by emailing [email protected].

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