Don’t bother visiting The Scrap Exchange in Durham, NC, unless you’ve got an hour or more to dig. The first thing you’ll notice walking through the door of the 25-year-old local institution is its “Blue Barrel Zone.” This is like a cross between Hoarders and Supermarket Sweep, wherein you select a small ($5), medium ($10), or large ($20) bag and stuff it with as many objects as you can: jewel cases, packing materials, picture frames, cardboard tubes, fabric, pens and markers, egg cartons, stickers, tiles, empty pill bottles… anything goes.
From there, the 23,000-square-foot Exchange splinters into specialty departments. “Vintage Village” is stocked with old magazines, books, and VHS tapes. “Mongo Zone” is brimming with metal, wood, and foam board. There’s even a selection of Bill Nye-ready beakers and flasks.
The place has long been a playground for artists, crafters, and D.I.Y. types, and it continues to expand. By the time it’s done, locals can expect a full-on Reuse ARTS District, featuring performance spaces, outdoor play areas (hello, skate park!), galleries, wood and welding shops, a shipping container mall, and maybe even some affordable housing.
Lakewood Shopping Center, 2050 Chapel Hill Rd., Durham, NC; 919-688-6960.