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One more time

ReNew’s former founder tasked with disposing of the defunct salvage business’ remains

From now until July 10, Kruger and his team will be cleaning out the building. They will be using their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/deconstructionworksvt) as the primary vehicle for selling off inventory. Kruger advises people check the page regularly for new items, and asks that project leads for Deconstruction Works be sent to deconstructionworksvt@gmail.com.

BRATTLEBORO—“It all comes full circle.”

That’s how ReNew Building Materials & Salvage founder and former executive director Erich Kruger describes the experience of liquidating the remains of the organization he once led.

Kruger, who now runs Deconstruction Works, a building demolition and reuse cooperative, has been given the job of finding a home for the hundreds of cans of paint and the thousands of scraps of lumber, ceiling beams, windows, doors, and assorted other building ephemera that were left behind when ReNew abruptly went out of business nearly two years ago.

He founded ReNew in 2005 as a nonprofit with a dual mission: recycling building materials and providing local jobs under its building deconstruction program. ReNew would take apart houses and resell the salvaged materials at its retail store.

ReNew moved out of its original digs in the former Book Press complex to the former Town Crier building in 2006.

Kruger was abruptly dismissed in July 2010, not long after ReNew took out a $1.05 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program to buy the Town Crier site.

ReNew shut down altogether in July 2013, leaving behind a property stuffed with building materials and a million-dollar loan to be repaid.

According to former ReNew board member Ben Coplan, the 14,086-square-foot building, which had a for-sale price of $695,000, was recently sold to John Stronk of Westmoreland, N.H. No purchase price was announced.

“I’m just glad that somebody bought the property and obviously intends to do something with it,” said Coplan.

Stronk said he had no firm plans for the building as yet. Part of it is currently rented by Habit OPCO, a methadone clinic, but the other 8,000-square feet formerly occupied by ReNew is available.

“My plan is to clean the place and look for a tenant,” Stronk said.

And Kruger’s job is to sell of as much stuff as possible over the next three months.

Kruger said most of ReNew’s revenues came through the sales of materials and fees for deconstruction services. But once he left, the deconstruction crews were laid off. The revenues started drying up and there weren’t enough private cash donations and grants to fill the gap.

“Some were asking the question, ‘If you’re getting everything for free, why does it cost much to run ReNew?’” said Kruger. “Sure, there were payroll costs with the deconstruction crews, but part of ReNew’s mission was creating jobs and offering training to people who needed it. And there are a lot of costs that come with owning a building too.”

Losing ReNew was a blow to the local deconstruction business, Kruger said, because ReNew provided an outlet for reusing building materials — an outlet that no longer exists.

“The only way you can get a steady flow of materials to reuse is to have a steady flow of deconstruction projects to provide those materials,” he said. “I thought my business could complement ReNew’s business.”

Kruger started Deconstruction Works two years ago, just before ReNew closed its doors. It was a solo project at the start, but now there are three others involved in an employee-owned cooperative. Kruger said he believes that a co-op, where worker/owners have a direct stake in the success or failure of the enterprise, is a more effective business model.

“Business is pretty good right now,” Kruger said. “We’re getting regular calls from donors, customers, and contractors. It’s mostly small projects, but for a company that hasn’t been around for long there’s a fair amount of awareness about what we do. People like the concept of recycling and want to see it succeed.”

He still has hope that a retail store selling recycled building materials will start up again. The original store was popular with builders and homeowners alike.

“We used to do $3,000 in sales most Saturdays,” said Kruger. “There definitely is a market for it, but it’s going to take a different business model for a store to be truly viable.”

Kruger will admit to feeling “some amount of redemption” for being put in charge of cleaning out ReNew’s remains.

“Nobody else would probably go through the trouble of recycling or reusing all this stuff,” he said.NOTE (Unknown Author, 2014-05-19T21:00:48): Awesome kicker.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #255 (Wednesday, May 21, 2014). This story appeared on page A8.

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