Salvage Works Interview
Preston Browning Works Towards Sustainable Construction
Author’s Note: This article is the second in a running series on the revitalization of the North Portland neighborhood of Kenton. Click for the first article in the series. Stay tuned for the continuing coverage of this developing area.
The other day I further explored the rapidly developing business district of the North Portla 2000 nd neighborhood of Kenton. Just a one-block stretch from the Max station on N. Interstate, I found a hugely successful trio of new businesses collectively operating out of a workshop and storefront at 2030 N Willis Boulevard. These startups have succeeded hugely since joining forces in April. Through holding the sustainability model as paramount before the profits-first model, the three businesses have proven that working in harmony and cooperation is a powerful force in small business. With Paul Bunyun ever watchful of his purview, Kenton is proving extremely fertile grounds on which to grow business in Portland.
The oldest of the three businesses in operation at 2030 N. Willis Boulevard, Salvage Works is the creation of brother and sister proprietors Preston and Rachel Browning.
Inspiration for the shop came long before that, when Preston was working his first job in the sweltering heat of a Virginia summer, de-nailing reclaimed beams from old buildings; it was in this environment that Browning forged his desire to build sustainably. He would later work in antique restoration, cabinet making and finish carpentry, however it was not until restoring houses in NE Portland in 1995 that he started making furniture from salvage. Browning describes the impetus behind his foray into salvage construction as when he was “seeing all of the beautiful house parts go into the dumpster.” He’s been deconstructing, salvaging, reclaiming and dumpster diving ever since. And with good reason, each ton of recycled wood saves 18,000,000 BTUs of heat energy.
In 1999 Preston assumed an innovator’s role on the Rebuilding Center’s first deconstruction crew, going on to start Refind Furniture, a department at the Center. After three years there, Browning worked rebuilding homes in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, advocating for deconstruction techniques that maximized reuse. He would go on to work with the City of Portland in the Green Building Program, helping to find homes for the materials reclaimed from their building projects.
The Browning’s opened the doors at the N. Willis Boulevard shop in May of 2010. When asked to describe Salvage Works in a nutshell, shop seer and wood guru Teri Thomas Petersen said “We don’t have any nuts here--besides the employees--just a lot of wood.” She went on to describe Salvage Work’s process of buying reclaimed materials before restoring and reselling them to homeowners and businesses across town. Salvage Works (SW) specializes in reclaimed and restored old growth wood, particularly rough-cut barn wood originally from Doug Fir trees.
Salvage Works either buys material, or salvages it themselves, removing beams, posts, joists, siding, windows, doors, locks, trim and much more. Once they get the wood back into the shop they mill it down, build it into whatever you like, and then finish the wood with a stain or polyurethane. Everything from tables, huge counters, stools, chairs, shelves, doors and more, all created from reclaimed wood sources. In addition to building new furniture from reclaimed wood, Salvage Work’s also offer design assistance for both small and large budgets for businesses looking to renovate or build out for the first time. They also offer reclaimed trinkets to go along with any good piece of wood: vintage interior and exterior doors, kitchen and bath fixtures, lighting, hardware, collectibles, beehives, man cave accessories and chicken coop kits.
Teri told me that besides having some salvage work in “every other house” in Kenton, you can see Salvage Work’s wood across town, up and down Killingsworth and Alberta, in the far SE, at Pistils Nursery on N. Mississippi and at neighborhood café Posies on N. Denver Avenue in Kenton. Salvage Works is local, vintage, rustic, recycled, and Pacific-North-Western.
Originally this location was solely the storefront and workshop of Salvage Works, building material reclamation specialists. However very early this year Salvage Works decided they could mutually benefit from converting their storefront into a cooperative space, and two Kenton based businesses jumped on the opportunity. Already having worked with Salvage works on other projects, Kenton based natural design floral shop Solabee Flowers, and Kenton based artisan men’s gift shop Boys Fort, opened up shop in the storefront of Salvage Works. But that's another couple stories... Stay tuned.
Check out Salvage Works at 2030 N. Willis Boulevard.