When Jose Ortiz enrolled in medical school in his native Honduras, he expected to eventually apply his healing touch to broken bones, upset stomachs and ailing organs.
But then life intervened. He fell in love with a fellow student, Denise Cintron, and soon bravely followed her to her family's home county of Prince George's after they married in November 2004. Memories of studying medicine faded as Denise pursued a career as an office manager and Jose cleaned roof gutters by day while earning certification as a plumbing, electrical and heating, ventilation and air conditioning specialist at night.
Twenty-one-month-old Joaquin Ortiz-Cintron revels in the sawdust that his parents, Jose Ortiz and Denise Cintron, have generated while transforming their Capitol Heights basement into a rentable apartment. They bought the kitchen cabinets and black and white backsplash tile - as well as hundreds of other items - at Community Forklift.
Now Jose applies his doctoring skills to aching homes in the Washington, D.C. region. These days, his main "patient" is the 73-year-old Capitol Heights, Maryland, bungalow the couple bought in August 2009. Jose and Denise are resuscitating their little tan house - from the drain of its basement sump pump to the peak of its asphalt roof - with supplies and tools from Community Forklift.
Hardwood floors, ceramic tiles, a large glass block window, a stainless steel kitchen sink, kitchen cupboards, bathroom vanities, carpet squares in a walk-in closet, ceiling light covers, vents, light switch covers, and yards of trim and molding are just some of the evidence of their discovery of the surplus and salvage jackpot in Edmonston.
"It's so awesome at the Forklift," Denise, 29, says while walking across the odd lots of handsome hardwood flooring that Jose painstakingly pieced together in appealing patterns in the living room and front hallway. "You have to know what you are looking for, but there are really good deals. And what you don't you use, you can donate back."
"We knew we didn't want carpet," Jose, 34, chimes in, adding how elated he was to rip out the hideous carpet they inherited with the house. "It just took us a while to figure out the look we wanted."
Forklift staffers are familiar with the family's prolific and epic ventures to the 40,000-square foot warehouse. Jose, with his distinctive black ringlets, inches his way down each aisle methodically, measuring once, twice and perhaps three times to make sure no matter what he buys is a sound investment. Several hours later, his cart will be stuffed with a motley and unwieldy collection of necessities that go into the guts of most every house: a garbage disposal, screws, nails, valves, angle iron, PVC and copper pipes, paint cans, drywall mesh, sheetrock compound and grout.
Not far away, Denise mingles exuberantly with Forklift staffers and customers, and periodically reminds Jose that Joaquin - their almost two-year-old toddler who inherited his father's black curls - is becoming a bit antsy.
Yes, they both agree, their home improvement projects would proceed much more rapidly if they shopped exclusively at big box stores. But they are willing to follow the slower route because of the magnetic pull of the Community Forklift's hot coffee, monthly specials, discounted prices, funky inventory, welcoming staff and offbeat events.
In October, for instance, the family donned zombie and pirate costumes and spent a Saturday at the Forklift's Pirate Party and Treasure Hunt.