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Sarasota Architectural Salvage opens second location

November 18, 2018

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — Nearly everything Jesse White sells has had a past life.

There are the roof tiles with pop art images superimposed on them that have a new life as wall decorations. There’s the turquoise former conference room table that’s been laminated and skimmed with reclaimed wood to give it an updated look. And there’s the white and faded-gold side table that has definitely been gently loved but still has plenty of soul.

White’s business, Sarasota Architectural Salvage, mostly sells things that are salvaged locally. He has a master’s degree in environmental science and examines everything he brings in from customers and finds at estate sales and in homes with a lens of sustainability before deciding whether to bring it to his store.

Sarasota Architectural Salvage has worked out of a warehouse in downtown Sarasota since 2003 but now has brought its sense of artistic sustainability to a more visible, retail-forward setting. Last month, the company opened a second location at 5265 University Parkway in the Market at University Town Center. White said he was approached by Benderson Development Co. about bringing his store to one of its shopping areas. He was excited to give it a try.

“They called us and said, ‘We’d like to have your creativity and your uniqueness in one of our malls. We’d like you to test the waters and see how it goes,’” he said. “This is one of the largest-growing areas in the area and we wanted to be here.”

The 10,000-square-foot downtown warehouse, at 1093 Central Ave., focuses on raw materials for do-it-yourself projects. The new store is more about showcasing things created from those raw materials. Most products sold in the store have been locally salvaged, and about 20 percent were acquired on domestic buying trips. Fifteen percent of products are imported, and about five percent comes from local artisans or through consignment. White said he likes to travel abroad and to parts of Florida, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina on his buying trips. He’s also looking to grow business in the company’s custom workshop.

He said he gets excited when he comes across interesting things, like airplane parts, amusement park rides or elaborate corbels from a classic Victorian mansion. He once bought the top of an Aladdin ride from a county fair from a carnival show.

“It’s always the most unique items that give me the greatest joy to bring into the store,” he said.

Opening a new store in University Town Center not only gives Sarasota Architectural Salvage better visibility, but it also gives the store easier access to its customers in Manatee County and broadens its customer base, White said.

“We have a lot of customers out here, and we wanted to be able to reach those customers. They enjoy the shopping experience with us, and so that’s part of it,” he said. “We wanted to meet new customers, and I think there is a customer that comes to a shopping center that does not come to a warehouse district like where we are downtown.”

Sustainable or reclaimed furniture has been popular for a while as consumers become more conscious about what they’re buying. According to Nielsen’s most recent Global Sustainability Report, published in 2015, consumer brands that show they’re committed to sustainability do better than those that don’t. At that time, 66 percent of consumers said they were willing to pay more for something from a sustainable brand.

Sarasota Architectural Salvage is not alone.

At Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which has five locations in Manatee and Sarasota counties, including one in Englewood, people can bring in their gently used appliances, light fixtures, televisions, furniture, hand and power tools and building materials such as flooring, plumbing supplies, doors and windows, which will then be sold inexpensively. The proceeds from those stores, which are independently owned and operated by local Habitat for Humanity organizations, are donated to help people house themselves. Selling used building materials or products to someone in the community keeps them out of the landfill.

Mission Avenue Studio, a Sarasota furniture maker, specializes in converting vintage and antique furniture into modern objects.

Even though Sarasota Architectural Salvage has been in business for 15 years, White said some of the store’s most loyal customers don’t know that the company is able to fulfill custom orders in its workshop. The company has always worked with local artisans, but over the years it has moved production mostly in-house because it’s easier from a communications standpoint.

“I think the best thing is for people to come in for a look at our store and get inspiration and approach our team about doing a custom project,” he said.

They can make things out of materials in the store or resize something that’s already on sale to a customer’s specifications.

“We now have the capacity to make custom barn doors. We have the ability to make dining room tables of virtually every size,” he said. “We have a welder; we can do fabrication of iron and give it interesting accents. We also have three full-time people working in the woodshop.”

White has salvaged material from houses as old as 100 years and as young as 20. In a house on Bird Key, he found iron gates, balconies and hurricane-rated glass doors. He found homes for dozens of items from the house, which probably would have ended up in the landfill otherwise.

Once items pass White’s sustainability test, he looks at other things like whether it can be recycled and what its environmental impact will be at the end of its life. He also checks on whether it’s locally made or has been transported long distances to get to Sarasota.

He also buys things when he travels. Once, while on vacation in the Carolinas with his family, he bought so many things that their weight had the tires on his minivan almost touching the wheel wells by the time he got home.

He also sometimes goes for stuff that’s totally out of left field — like the roofing tiles that are now wall decorations.

“Somebody went through with a plasma torch and a shear and cut these things all out. That’s just awesome,” he said.

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Information from: Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune, http://www.heraldtribune.com

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