For years, Michael Deakin, the fedora-wearing, camera-wielding owner of Heritage Salvage, has turned old wood, metal and other reclaimed material into new furniture, cabinets, floors and even art.
Now Deakin, known to most as “Bug,” wants to breathe new life into struggling towns across America by teaching them how to use salvaged materials.
With the help of a New York talent agency, Deakin is launching “Reclamation Road,” a reality show that he hopes will take him to small towns around the country decimated by factory closures and the shipping of jobs overseas.
“We are going to reuse, repurpose, rejuvenate and resuscitate using the stuff that’s already sitting in your backyard,” says Deakin, who is never without a bounce in his step or a glint in his blue eyes.
Deakin built his first house using reclaimed materials more than 40 years ago and then went on to build movie sets in Los Angeles. He opened Heritage Salvage in 2002 and since then has accumulated a following for his green vision and desire to reuse and restore old wood.
Now, the carpenter with a penchant for recycling (he showed up at a recent event wearing a “Plastic is Drastic” shirt and decked out in a wooden necklace adorned with a giraffe), says he wants to help other communities harness the power of reclaimed materials to create jobs and make their own items, instead of purchasing them at a big-box store.
“As I watched this downward spiral of towns and the middle class, I realized that there is something much bigger that we can do,” Deakin said. “I want to change the way the country views its buildings.”
Deakin is starting by putting out a call to all of America, especially people living in the rural Midwest, to send him YouTube videos about why they would benefit from such a project. Once selected, Deakin and his crew would travel to the town and teach residents how to deconstruct a building and turn it into new items the community needs.
And since Deakin has a penchant for big, grandiose ideas, he’s not stopping there. He wants to team up with Aqus owner John Crowley and Daily Acts founder Trathen Heckman to “drop in” on towns to teach them everything from how to create a community around a café to using sustainable resources.
“It’s about shopping local and making the most of your social capital,” he says. “We have to fix this country by the way it got built, not by the way it got broken.”