When Key Biscayne’s Rusty Pelican restaurant underwent a five-month, $7 million remodeling in 2011, Derek Shambora received a call from a general contractor working the site.
“We’re taking down all the wood, it’s yours, come get it,” the contractor told him.
Shambora owns a home improvement company in Oakland Park called Eco Simplista. For the last five years, he has worked on projects from children’s museums to apartment complexes. They all have one special feature — at least some of the building materials are reused goods.
In the last decade, Florida-based contractors, interior designers and builders have started to pull reusable items from torn-down homes and buildings for use in other projects.
Shambora said he tries to incorporate reused goods into every project. He keeps a phone list of demolition companies and retrieves materials like mirrors, drawers and wood when the phone rings.
“We offer something different. It’s not your cookie cutter, out-of-the-box construction company,” Shambora said.
The buying market is also strong, said Missy Monokian, director of ReStore for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami. The Liberty City store, which closed in March, sold used items like hurricane shutters, plumbing supplies, drywall and plywood. On an average day, Monokian said the store served several hundred people.
She said consumers would pile into the store when they received an influx of reusable materials, like tiles. The sticker price: 50 to 75 percent less than buying new. “People can’t afford to go into these regular stores and buy brand new things,” she said. “It’s becoming a hot commodity. Word of mouth is our greatest advertiser.”
The money from sales helps build homes for low-income families.
Habitat for Humanity plans to move the ReStore to Cutler Bay this summer. Meanwhile, the organization still takes donations of building materials from donors. For example, Habitat recently salvaged goods from old headboards to rugs when the InterContinental Miami Hotel was remodeled.
Monokian calls it a “constant turnaround,” as donated goods picked up by Habitat are quickly purchased by consumers. Habitat also turns to other junk companies for items they do not accept, in an effort to save as much as possible from going into a landfill.
Yomar Nice, owner of Yomar Consulting, an interior design company in Wilton Manors, takes similar satisfaction in using recycled goods. Nice described visiting a scrap yard to take relatively intact rail ties to make a coffee table. She enjoys helping the environment with each project.
“Even if it’s recycled, the beauty is to do it very aesthetically,” Nice said.
Homeowners do not mind reused goods, even toilets, in their home, said Alfie Hernandez, a building contractor with Dream Maker Builders LLC in Miami.
“People are becoming more aware, it pays off,” he said. “We’re all blue collar workers, we know someone who can use a toilet.”
Shambora’s latest project, a Fort Lauderdale home, is just about wrapped up. Still, one feature is quite old, or new, depending on one’s perspective: the bathroom countertop, made from a rusted-out 1920s pharmacy drawer.