Unless a preservation angel intervenes, Historic Houston Salvage Warehouse ishistory
The treasure box of salvaged construction waste, Historic Houston's Salvage Warehouse, is closing.
For a decade, the non-profit has reclaimed and reused historic building materials as a method of reducing construction waste and preserving the city's architectural heritage. As the aftershocks of an imperiled real estate market ripple across the restoration sector, the Salvage Warehouse has found itself drifting further away from profitability.
"The cash flow just ground to a halt," Lynn Edmundson, Historic Houston's executive director, tells CultureMap.
What most people don't understand is that we get things donated to us — windows, floors, doors, etcetera — but we only get cash when we resell those items. We have a crew that goes and salvages houses. So we're paying the crew, the equipment, the tools, all of the transportation, and then rely on the material to sell to cover our costs."
That model proved prosperous during the real estate bubble.
"We would sell several thousand square feet of flooring a month, for example, and that would keep our doors open," says Edmundson. "Now we're selling a couple hundred square feet a month, because people are not doing a big addition or new construction. Maybe they're patching up a bad spot, versus doing a whole room."
With financial solvency looking grim, the organization applied for a relief grant last fall.
"We were very, very hopeful that we were getting that grant," says Edmundson, citing a positive meeting and frequent phone calls with the organization.
On Wednesday, she learned that their application was not approved.
"There's enough money to pay salaries until the end of the month," she says.
The news came as a surprise, since with a full warehouse, there was little trace that Historic Houston was in trouble. When a notification about the closing was dispatched to Historic Houston's supporters at 10 a.m. Friday, Edmundson's cell phone and e-mail inbox quickly became saturated with messages from concerned friends, environmental activists and historic preservationists.
"I'm still hopeful that there is a 'Hail Mary' pass out there or a foundation will jump in. But I have to be realistic, and begin divesting. I've already lost two staff members."
Dibs on the liquidation sale are being allotted to members of Historic Houston, beginning on Friday, March 25. For now, the organization is accepting donations to account for temporary relief.