By Spencer Frye, Executive Director, Athens Area Habitat for Humanity

I love to see a remodeling of a local restaurant. It’s not that I’m picky about decor. It’s just that my job makes me a kind of usher into the restaurant afterlife.

That’s because a smart restaurateur will upgrade before the gear’s worn out, and those old cabinets, sinks, tables, chairs, fridges — they all have to go somewhere.

Just in the past few months, the Athens, GA, ReStores have had furniture donated by Barberito’s, by Dexter Weaver of Weaver D’s, by the Blind Pig Tavern, and sadly by East West Bistro after it closed. Selling those tables from East West was like selling furniture from a friend’s estate. But fortunately, there is a restaurant afterlife.

Sometimes these items live on in other local eateries. I know I’ve seen the guys from Cali-n-Tito’s down at the store, and if you’ve never been to their locations, do yourself a favor and go — they’re a treat for all the senses!

And while maybe nobody does it quite like they do, I can’t count the times I’ve seen ReStore items pop up in this or that hot new restaurant. In fact, it’s common for entire sets of chairs or tables to be snapped up by another establishment as soon as they hit Instagram.

Lots of folks love old furniture, myself included. It’s instant ambiance, makes you feel at home, like someone’s been here before you, and that’s comforting. You can relax around old furniture.

So if donations don’t get reincarnated into the restaurant world, they quickly end up in homes all over town. Having a table from East West, well it’s kind of like a memento of a good friend. Because memories are tied up in things, and we all love to have objects around us that were there during good times.

Of course, sometimes we don’t know where a thing’s been when it comes to us. In recent silent auctions, we’ve carried items ranging from a gorgeous stainless steel wine strainer to a steel melon baller dating to the 1920s. No idea how they got to us, but both are now happily reincarnated in the kitchen of Jittery Joe’s head coffee roaster.

They say food is love, and a good restaurant’s like a second home. Since love and home are the heart of Habitat, maybe being an usher to the restaurant afterlife isn’t such an odd job after all.

SD Spencer

Spencer Frye has been a business owner, non-profit director, and now state representative. Spencer has met and worked with folks from all over the community, and successfully balanced the interests of citizens, private enterprise, and government.