South End Store Teaches Value of Restoration

Written by Brandon Lewis

Brandon Lewis
BU News Service

Sandwiched between two of Boston’s oldest neighborhoods, the South End and Roxbury, one store specializes in holding onto that history. The 7,000-square-foot salvage store on Washington Street is educating Bostonians on the art of salvaging household objects and materials.

Restoration Resources, which has been based in the South End for the past 15 years, hosted several interactive workshops during ArtWeek Boston to showcase their extensive treasure chest of salvaged items such as door panels and light fixtures. The shop wanted to highlight the benefits of reusing and repurposing antique items.

Owner Bill Raymer visits demolition sites and archaic buildings around New England to find items that are usually going to be thrown out. If he finds architectural objects like fireplace mantles, he buys them, brings them to his store, cleans them and creates a selling price for them.

Raymer and Walter Santory, the store’s manager, moved from Thayer Street in the South End to a warehouse at 1946 Washington Street seven years ago. The main stage is the showroom, which features everything from a 1950s television camera to a set of shoe-shining chairs. Old MBTA trolley signs hang on the ceiling as large door panels spread out along the walls. The showroom leads to Santory’s workspace where he performs minor repairs on the products brought in. The workspace has wide windows in order for customers to take a peak. The “Circa” room in the back of the building is a rental space that boasts antique finds like a 1940s table from the Boston Public Library and a grand piano from the 19th century. Past events include dinner parties and business presentations.

Santory has worked with Raymer for the past 15 years and said the store is like no other salvage store in New England.

“Where can you go to a store where you can rent it out and have a party?” he said. “Where you can buy an object and be told its history? I can show you the workspace in which the products are restored.”

The partnership with ArtWeek Boston began in the spring of 2014 when Restoration Resources agreed to host a photography tutorial and a sign painting demonstration, nothing related to restoration or repurposing. Then in the Fall 2014 ArtWeek, the store invited award-winning designer Joanne Palmisano to talk about how vintage materials can make its way into modern homes. Now, the workshops at Restoration Resources feature what Raymer describes as “standard architectural pieces.”

“We’re talking about mantles, stain-glass doors, windows, sometimes plumbing fixtures, hardware,” Raymer said. “And then also anything that’s decorative that is an architectural element.”

As architectural trends change, what stays on and off the shelves also change. Raymer said today many homeowners are exploring more industrial, distressed objects like a floor panel that appears rusted or a tabletop that is struggling to maintain its painted exterior. But, mirrored wooden fireplace mantles and antique bathroom fixtures are not as popular as they were five to ten years ago.

“People nowadays want to put flat-screens on top of their fireplace mantles. And the older bathroom fixtures often have code issues so they’re not really fixable,” Raymer said.

This is something he considers not only when he schedules the workshops but also when people reach out to him to sell pieces to the store.

“It’s really just a matter of what you think people will buy and how they will come up with a way to reuse something,” Raymer said.

On Oct. 1, Raymer along with BHaley Designs Designer Brendan Haley hosted the quintessential workshop on why every homeowner should at least consider integrating salvaged items into their décor. It’s the equivalent to Architectural Salvage 101. The workshop series wrapped up on Oct. 3 with a presentation led by Michael Willard, the owner of Stained Glass Works in Quincy, on how to create and sustain stained cut glass.

Santory, who has been salvaging objects since he was 16 years old, holds unofficial workshops on a daily basis.

“Customers walk right in and see me working on these things,” Santory said. “And they’re always amazed at how I put things back together after they’re taken totally


He hopes, seeing Restoration Resources’ treasures will ultimately remind homeowners to think twice before throwing away household supplies because as they say, one’s man trash may be another man’s treasure.

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