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Natural Awakenings Sarasota / Manatee / Charlotte

Architectural Salvage: Sarasota’s Treasure Trove to Repurpose, Reuse and Up-cycle

Jul 06, 2011 08:40AM ● By By Suzi Harkola

Sarasota Architectural Salvage (SAS), located just north of the Rosemary District at 1093 Central Avenue in Sarasota, represents the A to Z of unique, useful, beautiful and historic items.
Owner Jesse White founded SAS in January 2003. An environmentalist at heart, he was motivated to create a business that adhered to his values of reducing waste and being involved in the sustainability of the community. After a remodel of his own home, he saved salvaged construction materials for about a year. He noted with a chuckle, “My wife suggested, rather strongly, that I move it all out. Since I didn’t want to throw them away, and since this predated the Habitat for Humanity ReStores, I opened a store to sell them.”
White’s first location was in the general neighborhood of his current store, but much smaller. After about six months, it became apparent that there was a market for this type of material, and a need for more space. He found a warehouse, with the help of Realtor® Ian Black, about a block north, and bought the building prior to the skyrocketing prices during the real estate boom.
“I love being in this area,” said White. “It’s not just the economics. I feel like SAS is part of the renovation of this community. We bring in a lot of great traffic and get along well with our neighbors. It’s a close blend of commercial and residential, and shows something about how you can have a livable, walkable, bikeable community with a blend of uses.”
White stressed that the core of the business is to identify how to reuse/ repurpose an item for resale. “We ‘upscale’ materials, transforming items thought disposable into design-competition entries. Our latest commitment to re-purposing is our $2 trailer, where every piece of wood in the trailer sells for $2 each, no matter the size. This is a collection of materials that deserve a second chance. We probably lose money, but it’s an example of how we are committed to recycling/reuse.”
When asked about his favorite item acquired over the years, White was quick to respond: “A Shriner’s clown car. Very few items come directly to my home, but this one did. I live near the (John and Mable) Ringling Museum, so we would take a Sunday drive through the neighborhood, stopping in front of the Museum, which always drew crowds.
It was a perfect SAS driving billboard, adorned with architectural salvage throughout its body. Doorknobs and drawer pulls formed star-studded accessories on its red and blue chassis, and a lawnmower engine propelled the machine at 2 mph. I sold the car a couple of years ago to a circus lover who appreciated its uniqueness.”
With a highly focused staff of five, everyone in the store takes responsibility for serving the customer - whether that’s buying an item, walking you through the store to find the perfect match to your request, ringing up a sale, or loading a vehicle. There’s a vibe you feel when you walk into the store – a welcome from every person on the team. Shawn O’Malley is the Store Manager, and White credits him for being “amazing in helping me achieve my vision. He not only brings professional retail experience to the table, but as a second-generation woodworker, he makes the table, too!”
Jack Rich has been with SAS the longest, and White credits his knowledge about wood and woodworking, antiques and general handicraft. “He has developed his own creative talents with photography and now is creating photo renderings of architectural salvage for sale as posters, portraits and postcards. Additionally, he is ‘walking the talk’ of environmentalism, biking to work three to four days a week.” Greg Penenga joined the staff about a year ago and does custom work, crafting items from salvage on his off time, which he sells in the store, as well as crafting vignettes – special scenes within the store to show off the wares.
The most recent addition to the team is Greg Pemberton, a veteran salvager whose career includes renovating houses and running resale stores.

White noted with a big smile, “All my staff are frequently asked, ‘Are you the owner?’ I love that, because the level of customer support and enthusiasm is nothing short of ‘owner-like.’”

Over the years, SAS has held and/ or supported numerous fundraisers, with the total donations exceeding $100,000 in eight years of community projects.
From October 2010 to April 2011, their charity events included fundraisers for the Ringling College of Art + Design, the Child Protection Center, the Healthy Start Coalition and Mote Marine Laboratory. SAS has had some unique uses. For example, the Discovery Channel bought location rights to shoot transitions and advertisements with Mike Rowe, host and/or narrator of popular TV series “Dirty Jobs,” “American Chopper,” “Deadliest Catch,” and “You Spoof Discovery.” In recent months, SAS has been utilized for private receptions and even a wedding – where SAS built a custom chapel made of salvaged stained glass.
Most of the customers at SAS are homeowners or artists looking for accent pieces for their homes or materials for special projects, for big items as architectural elements in the planning stage, for flooring and wall coverings to finish a construction project, for furniture and home décor after construction is complete, and even whimsical gifts, collectibles and antiques.
White noted, “Of course, the design community is an important part of our customer base, and we sell not only to local designers but also across the country. When all is said and done, most everything in the store is beautiful and can be used decoratively in the home or yard.” SAS store hours are Monday through Saturday, 9am to 5pm. Call 941-362- 0803 or visit their website at
Like any business venture, this was not for the faint of heart. It relies totally on retail business. White can only sell what he has on hand – there is no warehouse to replenish his stock, so he’s always looking for more opportunities for repurposing castoffs and for artisan pieces.
Natural Awakenings of Sarasota July 2020 Digital Edition


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