ReFab Founder Eric Scharz. Photo by J.B. Forbes.
Schwarz’s experience had taught him that in an increasingly imitative world, some people hungered for an authenticity conceived in the marriage of age and use.
He founded Refab, a salvage yard in south St. Louis, in a condemned building four years ago. At the time, he had about $3,000 in his pocket and an idea for salvaging discarded building materials and turning around the lives of veterans. Today, Schwarz leases a 40,000-square-foot warehouse off Gravois Avenue and employs 14 people. His budget for 2017 is $1.2 million. That growth is partly attributable to a backlash against the uniformity produced by globalization.
The customers who frequent this two story red-brick repository of rescued material are weary of seeing the same furniture, the same sinks and the same light fixtures — all of it mass-produced on the other side of the planet. “You go into a lot of houses — and I don’t know if we coined the phrase — but they are all ‘Lowes’d up,’” said Randy Miller, who was looking for material for his coffee shop in Southern Illinois. “This is a like a candy store.”