The recycled man: Steve Feldman of Green Demolitions
Keeping discarded kitchens out of landfills is just the tip of the iceberg.
Fri, Mar 22 2013 at 5:50 PM
This "Mayflower Classic" kitchen is getting ready for its second life through Green Demolitions. (Photo: Green Demolitions)
Call it rebirth, reincarnation, repurposing, renewal or what you will … Steve Feldman calls it recycling.
A former radio man with experience behind the microphone and in marketing, Feldman recycled himself in 2005 when he formally launched Green Demolitions, the most prolific salvager and reseller of luxury kitchens in the country.
Based in Greenwich, Conn., a hedge-fund heavy suburb of New York City with ample luxury everything to go around, Feldman isn’t just in the business of rescuing high-end kitchens from landfills. Green Demolitions' equally important purpose is to benefit Recovery Unlimited's addiction recovery programs, as Feldman himself is a recovered addict.
But wait — there's more. Feldman also emphasizes job creation. Having grown significantly from its humble, grassroots beginnings, Green Demolitions sports a team of 30 members, many of whom have been recycled from other professions.
We had the pleasure of asking Feldman a few questions about the history of Green Demolitions and what’s next. He’s a busy guy, expanding the company and overseeing projects that extend well beyond the New York City area.
MNN: You’ve been on quite the journey leading up to the formation of Green Demolitions. Can you tell us a bit about how you came to be the top recycler of luxury kitchens in the nation?
Feldman: When you take an ex-rock ‘n’ roll DJ and radio sales guy and he winds up as the leading seller of pre-owned kitchens in the country, you can imagine an interesting backstory. After 18 years in the radio business, I made a major career change by moving into fundraising. I was working in Greenwich, Conn., in 2001 when the economy crashed. One donor — who had just lost millions in the stock market — stopped all funding. Her next-door neighbor was Farah Pahlavi, the last empresses of Iran, who had a 10,000-square-foot Rockefeller mansion. I saw a sign "Demolition in Progress," so I drove up to the house and it was gone. Right then I had the idea of earning money for charity through demolition donations.
I ran Green Demolitions as a pilot project for four years before launching it full time in 2005. Greenwich was the center of our world and we received amazing kitchen and estate donations until the next market crash in 2008. The challenge since then has been finding enough good kitchen inventory. Geographic diversity, first regionally, then nationally was our first solution. By offering the options of purchase and consignment in addition to donations, we gained many new customers throughout the kitchen and bath industry.
Here is another kitchen destined for Green Demolitions. (Photo: Green Demolitions)
Green Demolitions is much more than a salvaging and resale businesses ... it's a charity. What's the mission of Recovery Unlimited, the nonprofit organization behind it all?
Recovery Unlimited’s mission is recycling, creating jobs, offering affordable kitchens and earning outreach funds for nonprofit programs.
Recycling luxury: Kitchens, bath fixtures, architectural elements, and furnishings slated to be thrown out are diverted from landfills.
Creating jobs: The careful removal, transportation and resale of these items creates numerous construction and retail jobs as these items are prepared for repurposing.
Offering affordable kitchens: Green Demolitions offers affordable pre-owned kitchens and showroom displays which help consumers to jump-start renovation projects
Earning outreach funds: Proceeds earned from the retail sales of recycled items fund programs and projects that support nonprofit outreach programs.
Green Demolitions accepts much more than just luxury kitchen fixtures and materials. Any particularly intriguing items come through the doors of the Fairfield, N.J., Super-Store?
Many items have an interesting history. Recently, we had a kitchen from a Hurricane Sandy victim. The tidal surge wrecked the house, but the kitchen survived and sold the week it arrived. We receive many celebrities’ and Forbes 400 members’ kitchens but our policy is to never reveal the names or addresses of our donors and clients.
On that note, you worked closely with Bobby Kennedy Jr. and the late Mary Richardson Kennedy on the Kennedy Green House project in Bedford, N.Y. Can you tell us a bit about the role Green Demolitions played?
The story about the mold problem and why they needed to gut renovate is in the book "Kennedy Green House." Our role was to be the recycler of everything that could be saved — kitchen, bath fixtures, architectural, even furniture, home décor and cool personal stuff. The family loved the fact that Green Demolitions literally took everything and nothing went to waste.
Photo: Green Demolitions
You're based in Greenwich with a store in New Jersey and a successful online retail business. Do you also accept donations outside of the Northeast?
Yes, if the project is worthy, we will send crews and trucks to all 50 states. We are currently working on projects in California, Florida and Chicago. Every week, our removal teams have projects stretching from Boston to Washington, D.C.
The Renovation Angel give-back program is relatively new. How does it differ from Green Demolitions' charitable outreach program? And how did your "Celebrity Angels" Edie Falco and Amani Toomer get involved?
Renovation Angel offers all the benefits of the Green Demolitions program with an added "give-back." On qualified donations, Renovation Angel distributes a portion of the proceeds to the charity of the donor’s choice. It’s a positive way for homeowners to support their favorite nonprofit organization. Edie Falco and Amani Toomer’s kitchen projects were already in progress as we were launching Renovation Angel, so both were happy to give their kitchens to help their favorite charities.
Aside from waste diversion, are there any other environmental issues that you feel passionate about?
This may sound funny, but I consider myself a "Recycled Person." What I mean is that I converted my skill set from radio and marketing into operating a kitchen recycling enterprise. I get real excited about creating jobs. One team member was a kitchen installer and is now a "kitchen remover." A former home stager is now a retail store salesperson. It goes right through the company on the theme of "repurposing your skills."
What's next for Green Demolitions and Recovery Unlimited?
We want to change the kitchen culture in America. Imagine a Mercedes-Benz dealer selling you a new car, then either throwing your old Mercedes in a Dumpster or reselling it and keeping the money! Sound absurd?
Well, that’s what happens to many luxury homeowners when they renovate their kitchen. The kitchen is either tossed in the Dumpster or someone is taking it and giving the homeowner nothing. We want to build the infrastructure nationwide so homeowners and industry professionals have a savvy financial solution for pre-owned kitchens and showroom displays.
In 2012, we started a new company, Kitchen Trader, which sells kitchens online on a "purchase before removal" basis. Luxury kitchens are sold, removed and delivered directly to the buyer. We are creating a nationwide network of brokers to create a larger base of sellers and buyers on Kitchen Trader and Green Demolitions. Already we are established in cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and Naples, Fla.
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