June 15, 2003
By Christopher Symington, Record-Journal staff
WALLINGFORD - On his way to work Friday, Joe DeRisi spotted a chair on the side of the road, a piece that would be perfect for the inventory in his crowded shop on Center Street.
After he grabbed the chair, he brought it back to the small storefront space which is crammed with collectibles, miscellaneous statues, wooden crates and barrels, an old record player, six sinks and everything else you may find at a tag sale.
"I don't want to make it too clean. People will think it's too high class," DeRisi said as he carried a few chairs outside to place on the sidewalk. "I like going into shops where I can get a good deal."
Although DeRisi doesn't want his place to look overly upscale, he is slowly getting it organized. For about the past four months he has been moving his "stuff" into the location."I have an entire barn filled," he said. "You open the door and it's just right there."
DeRisi is not just a pack rat, though. He is more of a conservationist.
In the window of his store at 8 Center St., a makeshift sign lets passersby know what's going on in his shop, and a bit of what he is involved with elsewhere. Aside from Antiques, Fixtures, Lumber and other Salvage and Consignments by appointment - the sign reads, "Urbanminers.com (Under Construction) Deconstruction and Materials Marketing."
The "Under Construction" refers to his Web site - which is not up yet. He sells different items on different Web sites.
Deconstruction is a trend that is growing, he says. It's recycling on an entirely different level.
Instead of just demolishing buildings and burning or scrapping the materials, people - or crews - such as DeRisi will take apart the building piece by piece and market the materials for resale.
Aside from fixtures such as windows and doors, people who take buildings apart can salvage as much as 90 percent of a building, according to DeRisi. He said that parts of buildings like structural members, floor joists, roof sheathing and even siding and foundations can be saved - and can be worth money.
"If you deconstruct a building you can save an enormous amount of materials from going into the waste stream," he said. "Usually what they do is bulldoze and burn a building - which is insanity."
DeRisi said that while specialized companies have been deconstructing buildings for a long time, the scale that it is being done on now is new.
"It's an evolving industry right now," he said. "The way I look at an old house is, it's a perfect storage location for old timber. You've got 250-year-old lumber that's perfectly preserved, and these materials are basically a finite resource."
He said that materials that can be salvaged from old buildings could be very valuable because they simply aren't around anymore. And they can be useful for people who are trying to repair old buildings and furniture and need to match the materials.
Something that Tibor Herczeg agrees with.
He was in DeRisi's shop looking for some wood to use as railings for a table that he is restoring in his home in Bethel. He paid $5 for two planks of wood that were once table leaves.
Herczeg, with pencil in ear and a thick Hungarian accent on his tongue, was bouncing around to small shops downtown scouting for used materials.
"I want to use some lumber and recycle it to make furniture the way they used to do it, the old fashioned way," he said. "The new lumber is just not the same, it's very hard to get. The trees don't grow fast enough."
Herczeg said that he was searching for "anything well made, hand made, just like everybody else. Something that needs a little care, sometimes more than a little."
After getting a tip from DeRisi about other similar shops in the area, Herczeg quickly jogged up Center Street to continue his search.
Just around the corner, he popped into Frank's Garage Sales and poked around a bit more, before coming across another treasure. Something that he may be able to use for his table - Lewis Hinckley's "Directory of Antique Furniture" published in 1953 now with a torn cover.
"What do you need to get for this book?" he asked the owner, Frank Termini, who had just come in from walking his small dogs Chenel and Skippy.
"It's a funny type of business, you never know," Termini said of his shop which was full of old magazines, silverware, furniture, videos and outside - two old wooden sleds and glider chair among other things. "I buy used things and try to sell them for a little profit. You never run into a gold mine but sometimes you can make a little something."
DeRisi's neighbor Paula Cella, of Paula's Place, which also sells antiques and collectibles, said the two businesses are different and can even help each other.
"It's nice they go in and out and make a holiday of it," Cella said. "His merchandise is entirely different from mine. He has things that I don't have, which is nice. And it works the other way too. It's good to have a variety."
On DeRisi's desk next to his black Dell computer - the only thing relatively new in the shop - is a book titled "The Next Efficiency Revolution - Creating a Sustainable Materials Economy."
"If you wait long enough, there'll always be someone looking for something you save," he said. "There's a market for almost anything."