News Story

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Thursday April, 4 2006

I M Salvage brings items back to life


They don’t make things like they used to — or so goes the saying. But for Ralph “Bones” Gollnick, owner of I M Salvage Co., the old adage “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” might be more in line with his business model. Gollnick has built his salvage business on rescuing things that still have plenty of utility and value.


Building salvage isn’t a renewable resource concept like recycling plastic bottles into carpeting to meet a consumer need. It’s recovery and reuse of building materials in an environmentally sound and financially sustainable way.


The resource has renewed life because the user has changed, not vice versa. Instead of treating a resource like waste, reclamation utilizes existing materials in an environmentally friendly way. Throwing away salvageable items and purchasing new unnecessarily uses raw materials, consumes energy for manufacturing and fills up landfills with waste and pollutants at an alarming rate.


Gollnick and job foreman Jeff Pavlik salvage anything that may have a renewable use —and in some cases a renewed, renewable use. “I started out in the remodeling business and would try to find salvaged materials for jobs. I would buy building materials and equipment from a guy who was salvaging material from SCS of Wisconsin Demolition Company projects. When he decided to retire, I took over the business with the thought of making the business more accessible to the public,” Gollnick said of his business on W. Cleveland Ave. in Milwaukee.


His 30,000-square-foot warehouse is the Macy’s department store of salvage. Section by section, this space is a treasure trove for anyone looking for anything in the commercial or residential trades: doors, windows, lumber, brick, home interior and exterior fixtures, hardware, lighting and plumbing fixtures. “And odds and ends,” Gollnick said. What sorts of oddities?, begs the question. “All kinds — gargoyles, safes, outhouses, stuff like that. Ever since Martha Stewart put an outhouse in one of her gardens, we’ve had people asking for them.” And ask, they have. I M Salvage keeps its customers’ wish lists of hard-to-find items on hand. Looking for a certain type of stove, a claw-footed bathtub or an Art Deco lighting fixture? “If we don’t have it, we’ll find it. Given enough time, eventually we’ll trip over it,” Gollnick said.


Does he ever rescue something for salvage and wonder if it will ever be wanted by anyone? Nope. “It’s just waiting for the right person to come along.” Gollnick has been salvaging remodeling and demolition sites for 20 years, so it’s safe to say he has seen it all. “We’ve salvaged homes to entire city blocks,” he said.


Customers come in and scout out the goods. Some of Gollnick’s customers are opening bars and restaurants and looking for fixtures among the myriad of commercial fixtures and equipment. Some people come in looking to match doors in their turn-of-the-century homes. “Our customers are everyone from housewives to major contractors,” he said.


When shopping at I M Salvage, bring measurements and an idea of what you’re looking for, or run the risk of getting carried away by the unlimited potential that surrounds you. With a dash of imagination, you will see old things in new ways, with new utility and new life. Now that’s a renewable and sustainable resource.


I M Salvage is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Calling ahead is recommended.


I M Salvage is a member of Building Materials Reuse Association, a non-profit, educational organization whose mission is to facilitate building deconstruction and the reuse/recycling of recovered building materials.