Barry Miller is first in line at the UT Surplus Store every Thursday. When the doors open at 3 p.m. sharp, he greets the employees as if they’re relatives at a family reunion, asking how their pets and children are. The store embraces the holiday spirit by playing Christmas tunes throughout December and setting up a Christmas tree at the front of the store. Miller, a retired librarian, scurries to the back of the store where his catch of the week awaits — a book.
So far, he has bought and read 1,000 books from the UT Surplus Store, he says. “It’s just a joy to come here,” Miller says. “An unmitigated joy.”
UT Surplus Property has sold recycled items from the UT campus to the Austin public for 30 years. In 2019, the department started the UT Surplus REuse Store, open biweekly 3-7 p.m. every Thursday and from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday. The items sold include furniture, books, vinyl records and athletic memorabilia. The warehouse has an open floor plan and natural sunlight and it is organized by item type, creating an inviting shopping environment. Mark Engelman, the manager of Resource Recovery, oversees Surplus Property as well as the Zero Waste Program on campus — both sustainability efforts to conserve resources and protect the environment. The mission of UT Surplus is is to manage, repurpose, reuse and recycle all items university departments no longer need.
The UT Surplus staff collects items from all University of Texas at Austin departments — educational, athletic and research. The mission is to salvage campus furnishings and sell them back to the community. The store, located at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus in North Austin, is a part of UT Surplus’ warehouse facility, which houses multiple reuse programs run by various university initiatives.
According to Engelman, there is also an online auction for repurposed items on Swico Auctions. UT Surplus items are disclosed, and the highest bidder receives the item after 10 days. The winner can pick it up from the warehouse where it’s located during specified times throughout the week.
The auction sells larger pieces such as university vehicles, lab equipment, cabinetry and oversized furniture such as couches or drawers, while the store houses unique chairs, tables, books, athletic apparel, art and small electronics, Engelman says.
Every Friday, UT Surplus gives faculty and staff first selection on items at no charge. School districts can also claim educational resources such as computers or lab equipment every Monday. After a month in inventory, items are transitioned to either the UT Surplus REuse Store or online auction because of limited space in the warehouse.