NextGen Decon

by Jennifer Rude Klett

 

As a younger, married couple Brent and Catherine Meyer rely on social media to boost business at 7th Street Salvage in Macon, Georgia while simultaneously raising three children.

Next Gen

Tay Whiteside of Black Dog Salvage in Roanoke, Virginia casts youthful coolness aside to learn from knowledgeable “old guys.”

NextGen Tay

Deconstruction, Inc. owner Mark Raszewski (center) in Madison, Wisconsin says customers are surprised to see how young his crew is including Afton Hoeper (left) and Nick Vallender (right).

NextGen Decon

JENNIFER RUDE KLETT

 

With marketing savvy, the mastering of social media and a measure of humility, an emerging class of American architectural salvagers is making their mark.

 

They are not the old, crusty, sequestered salvagers of days gone past.

They do not resemble Fred Sanford, and probably have no idea who he is.

They are the next generation of architectural salvagers . . . and they are already shaping the fate of the industry.

“The future of the salvage business is great,” said Doc C. Keys, owner of Little Doc’s Architectural Salvage in Indianapolis. “It helps having all of these TV shows and articles that put the spotlight on how cool and important architectural items are.”

Keys credits his father, “Big” Doc G. Keys, for getting him into the industry. After Doc G. expanded his salvage business to Tennessee two years ago, Doc C. took over his westside Indianapolis location.

Then, Doc C. decided to establish his own “laid back and fun” showroom on the downtown’s eastside.

“I get a lot of business from Instagram and Facebook posts and I feel like that is something the older generation is missing out on,” Keys said. “We play vinyl records, old-school hip hop to classic rock. I just want to make sure that everyone that comes in my shop has a good time and understands that salvage can also be fun and hip.”

Down south, Catherine Meyer of 7th Street Salvage in Macon, Georgia also relies on social media as a powerful tool.

“Pictures tell a thousand words as they say. Well, our pictures tell the stories from our past, and those stories have soul. It really is connecting the old world, with a new generation,” said Meyer, who owns the business with her husband Brent.

Their joint salvage venture evolved from their passion for old things and a classic case of one thing leading to another, according to Brent. In 2017, they decided to purchase and repair a former cotton warehouse in Macon’s historic downtown, already furnished with some salvage. Their warehouse opened to the public in June of this year.

“It really shows us that all our hard work pays off because it makes others happy as well,” said Catherine.

In the Midwest, Mark Raszewski, owner of Deconstruction, Inc. in Madison, Wisconsin, also utilizes social media while focusing on helping customers in person and running a welcoming, orderly shop.

A former insurance salesman, Raszewski decided to dive into the salvage business just four years ago to combine his love of antiques and old homes along with his talent for building with reclaimed lumber.

“I strive to have a very well-organized warehouse and put a lot of focus on customer service, two things that you don’t find at many architectural salvage places,” Raszewski said.

Still a young man, he’s glad he made the career move and finds the business rewarding in unanticipated ways.

“The thrill of the hunt is always fun and exploring properties is fantastic, but I have never had so many people thanking me for what I do. The joy that people express when they find what they need for their home is something that I never expected and the best part of what I do,” he explained.

Like Keys, another second-generation salvager is Tay Whiteside, custom fabricator, photographer and videographer at Black Dog Salvage in Roanoke, Virginia as featured on the popular television show Salvage Dawgs on the DIY network. His father is Mike Whiteside, co-owner of Black Dog. Tay and fellow young co-worker Grayson Goldsmith are referred to as “Gen 2.”

While growing up, Whiteside’s dad redirected him from video games by putting him to work cleaning bathrooms and mopping floors at the family salvage business.

“It’s safe to say I found a new videogame – work hard, sweat a lot, be coachable and set your mind on what you want to achieve,” Whiteside said. “The world doesn’t owe you anything, if you want something, you better be willing to work for it.”

Whiteside said he was born with a natural mechanical curiosity. And, he quickly discovered the seasoned, older generation at Black Dog had something to teach him.

“I love old guys, they are full of knowledge and just waiting for someone curious enough to come along and ask them questions,” he explained.

“A big problem that I’ve noticed with my generation is that people feel the need to act like they know everything. As a kid who spent more time around people twice or three times my age, I was constantly reminded of how much I didn’t know. Instead of trying to act cool and pretend like I knew the answer, I asked why. I asked how. I asked them to show me again so I could figure it out and understand for myself.”

As for the future of architectural salvage, Whiteside said it’s linked to American manufacturing and tradespeople.

“The future of salvage depends on the future pride in domestic manufacturing and the ability of future generations to maintain an appreciation for trade jobs,” he explained. “If we as a country can increase the focus on building things with a sense of pride, and the way they should be built, then the architecture of the future will last longer and be worth more down the road and therefore still be worth salvaging if has to come down. And the salvage cycle continues.”

 

Jennifer Rude Klett is a Wisconsin freelance journalist, contact her at jrudeklett.com