Reclaim, Restore, and Repurpose: Architectural Junk Becomes Another’s Treasure

reclaimed lumber
Photo by Eric Tadsen

Treasure from a bygone age sits in the Deconstruction Inc. warehouse on Madison’s far east side. The growing collection that ranges from 50 to 200 years old has been carefully salvaged, cleaned, and organized, just waiting to be repurposed for a special project and return to usefulness. Homeowners, contractors, developers, and DIYers come from far and wide in a hunt for architectural salvage, reclaimed lumber, and vintage décor in hopes of finding a distinctive architectural element that will find new life to adorn a home, office, or business. Some have searched for years at the bottom of bins and under unorganized piles at flea markets, antique auctions, and architectural salvage yards. Their extreme patience pays off when they discover the mother lode of locally sourced, pre-1940 salvage.

Mark Raszewski, owner of Deconstruction Inc., searches Dane County for reclaimed material from an era renowned for craftsmanship, workmanship, and elegance. His selective demolition and salvage of usable building materials preserves history to be enjoyed by future generations, and his environmentally conscious approach helps keep these items out of landfills.

Photographs by Eric Tadsen

Going back, it was passion for architectural salvage that led Mark to take on ownership of Deconstruction Inc., but the journey to get to where he is now was not without a few twists and turns. Raised in Chicago and the suburbs, Mark came to Madison to attend the University of Wisconsin–Madison to major in insurance and risk management. Following graduation, he returned to Chicago for only six months before realizing how much he loved Madison, and that he wanted to start his new career here. It was fortuitous that he took a job in Madison in a retail store while he looked for work in the insurance field. This work got him through financially and, most importantly, exposed him to marketing, remarketing, merchandising, and display, which planted a seed for his future destiny.

After 11 years in his successful insurance sales career, Mark felt bored. He realized he needed to figure out a career that would pull together his varied interests. Having inherited his dad’s natural ability to build, repair, and fix things, he found he could decompress from his day job by building things. At night and on weekends, he helped build houses for Habitat for Humanity or fiddled around designing and building smaller projects. The tug to change his day job grew and he realized he wanted a career that would encompass his passions and abilities in building, architecture, construction, real estate, history, antiques, marketing, merchandising, and display. The answer was elusive at first and then it hit him—he’d start his own business by salvaging and building furniture with reclaimed materials and selling antique collectibles online. He had a storage unit with a workshop, so while he continued his insurance sales career by day, he worked hard from early morning to late at night and on weekends to gather inventory and build things.

Photographs by Eric Tadsen

With a goal to leave his insurance job in September 2014, Mark’s dream literally blew apart when a tornado tore the roof off his workshop and damaged more than half of his inventory only a few months before he was ready to launch his new business. His insurance experience was of great benefit in getting him reimbursed for some of the loss, but his one-of-a-kind inventory and the hunt time could not be recovered.

Concerned about needing additional income after the tornado, Mark went in search for a local architectural salvage company he had heard about to work there while rebuilding his inventory. What he found was a barely operational business and an owner ready to retire who wanted to sell the business and inventory to the right person. His initial plan was to make some extra money, but after only a short while, he and the owner realized he was the right one to bring the business back to life. What he thought was a catastrophic loss to his original venture was an opportunity in disguise and the path to his biggest treasure yet, to own Deconstruction Inc., an entire architectural salvage business. He worked more than 80 hours a week by himself for six months to fix up the property and organize the materials in order to open the doors to the public in spring 2015.

Deconstruction Inc. now leads the pack when it comes to offering a specially curated collection of salvage. Mark is passionate about preserving history and matching vintage material with a customer’s new project. A discriminating and disciplined collector, he possesses an innate sense of what people are looking for as well as how much can be kept on hand in the warehouse before the inventory becomes overwhelming and difficult for him, or customers, to find anything. His great attention to detail means the salvaged material is well organized and cleaned. The millwork has been sorted by type, length, and width, and everything has been grouped by kind.

Photographs by Eric Tadsen

Customers who love treasure hunting can comb the inventory searching for a one-of-a-kind item that they’ll recognize when they see it, or describe their project needs to Mark to have him help find the materials. He’s not in the business to make a quick buck, and is dedicated to taking time to help customers find just the right materials to complete projects. He goes the extra mile to problem solve and make recommendations to help customers complete their design or recreate something they’ve seen. Using repurposed salvage guarantees unique character that can’t be replicated.

A wide array of salvaged materials for almost-any-scale project can be found at Deconstruction Inc. Imbued with a sense of history, the reclaimed wood and metal can add architectural interest or be turned into gorgeous furniture and home accessories.

At Deconstruction Inc., the inventory is ever changing. The best way to get a sense of what treasures lie within the warehouse is to follow them on Facebook.

Lauri Lee is a repurposing fanatic living in Madison.

Deconstruction Inc.

1010 Walsh Road
Madison, WI 53714
(608) 960-0110
dcisalvage.com