Eco-Based Firm Helps Designers Save 'Green'

Greenwich, CT — Being perceived as a business looking to save clients' "green" during the remodel process will always serve a company well. Green Demolitions - a service provider to kitchen and bath designers, architects and builders - saves its clients green both literally and figuratively.

President Steve Feldman explains: "The companies we first worked with were using our company to sell more cabinets. They were telling their customers how money could be saved [by purchasing materials we salvaged from other projects]. So we learned from the kitchen industry how our program would benefit companies, and we basically promoted our concept as a 'recycle your kitchen and save thousands.' We did it as a cost-savings benefit."

Feldman's personal history has had a profound effect on his current life. A recovering addict for 22 years, the former radio DJ describes how he left the radio business in 1998 to join a non-profit that was doing worldwide addiction recovery outreach. As an outgrowth of this work, Feldman founded a 501C3 charity called Recovery Unlimited.

"I read about a guy in Forbes magazine who lived in Greenwich, CT," he reports. "I cold-called him one day, and he introduced me to a wealthy donor whose neighbor's home was razed when the economy crashed. I drove up the driveway of this 10,000-sq.-ft. Rockefeller home and it was leveled into bricks."

It was at this moment that Feldman saw the potential for a demolition donation business, with the money earned going to Recovery Unlimited. Green Demolitions was born, and six months later it was profiled by a local Greenwich newspaper. This exposure led to more calls and eventually introductions to kitchen designers, architects and builders.

Feldman continues: "Whether someone buys an expensive home in New Jersey, Connecticut or Long Island, they may love the home but decide the kitchen is not their style. So, you may have this gorgeous Quaker-made kitchen with green granite and Viking Appliances, but all of the products are going to get tossed during the remodel."

That is where Green Demolitions steps in - salvaging the materials for reuse.

Half of the firm's business comes from kitchens, including items such as appliances, cabinetry and lighting. Other products include bathroom items, home décor and architectural exterior elements. They will salvage materials from single rooms to whole-house demolitions.

Though the firm has four locations, its reach is not limited geographically. The business is also not focused entirely on residential projects either, as the firm has also dismantled showrooms.

"We don't compete with the kitchen industry, either, because the people who buy from us would never pay full price," he says.

Ultimately, Green Demolitions reflects a solid business model for continued stability and increased prosperity - an observation made by Feldman based on the shift in consumer attitudes due to challenging economic times.

"Three years ago people didn't care where their [old] products went, or if they spent an extra hundred grand, because the value of their house probably went up a hundred grand between the time they bought it and the time they closed," he comments. "Now, we're finding that kitchen and bath designers are closing deals by having us in the mix because now people question why they are throwing out a $100,000 kitchen. So, we're basically helping the kitchen and bath industry to leverage the current homeowner's kitchen."

Green Savings

To Feldman, two of the firm's most unique offerings are its Kitchen Closer program and showroom display consignment program.

He offers: "Kitchen Closer enables us to help designers sell more kitchens, providing three major cost savings: We give the homeowner a tax deduction, we give the homeowner free professional removal and pickup, and there is no need for a dumpster for the kitchen products, so it won't cost money or look terrible in the driveway."

He continues: "We'll actually send the designer an estimate based on the pictures we take of the kitchen, recommending tax savings after I e-mail them a sample. The reason we've been able to develop this program is that we're very tied in with the kitchen industry - we have people who receive donation calls and do all of the logistics, scheduling, inspections, removals and trucking."

He says the firm anticipates doing about 500 kitchens this year, more than double its 2007 total.

"People can either deduct what we sell the products for, or they can deduct the IRS limits for the deductions."

Currently, the Westye Group, the largest Sub-Zero distributor in the country, is partnering with the firm to promote Kitchen Closer.

"Kitchen Closer gives us a way to give back to the industry that gave us our start. We want to help kitchen designers address three key issues: that people are now very cost conscious, that they are shopping around and that they are hesitating in making decisions," he says.

"Kitchen Closer not only adds emotion to their initial feelings, clients are going to save money, and they're not going to harm the environment because they are taking something they don't want and donating it and recycling it," he offers. "Plus, I think this is something people want to do because the proceeds go to support Recovery Unlimited."

With regard to the consignment program, Feldman says: "What do kitchen companies do to get rid of their displays? An appliance store can have their as-is section in the back or their bargain room, but kitchen companies aren't really set up to do that. And I think that's counter-productive. You just told a client your new Bentwood Kitchen is going to cost them $90,000, and then you have a sign that says $30,000 for the Bentwood display that's sitting in the front room - you're shooting yourself in the foot.

"Plus, bargain hunters who might buy it want the same design services, they want to buy cabinets," he explains. "I also hear a lot of kitchen dealers don't commission designers on the display sales because there's no money to be made on them. So the consignment program is a great solution. That way, kitchen dealers don't become bargain retailers."

A lot of companies actually hire Green Demolitions to dismantle their displays, Feldman reports. "With so many companies closing locations, downsizing and changing lines and products, they are bringing us in. We're doing a ton of showrooms."

In fact, the firm just finished doing a Clive Christian showroom. "Clive Christian kitchens can cost between $135,000 and $300,000, and the showroom had displays that were seven or eight years old. They needed to change it out, because people who come into the showroom want to buy new items for their homes," he stresses.

Store Front

The firm's three warehouse showrooms - in Norwalk, CT; Riverdale, NJ and Honesdale, PA - play a vital role in the company's operations.

"We're pretty good at knowing what will sell," notes Feldman. "We may walk past a bathroom or a set of built-in cabinets that are too hard to remove, or know that the resale value of something is too small to cover the cost of removal. We're selective about what we will actually take."

The firm is selective because projects take them to sites from Boston to Virginia - including the Greater Boston region (southern New Hampshire), the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic seaboard.

Consumers are only eligible for the donation program, whereas showrooms are offered the consignment option.

"Our process is quite simple," he says. "The designer contacts us and if they send us enough information about the project, we evaluate it and do an inspection. After the inspection is completed, we give the final okay to move forward with the removal. All jobs, regardless of size, are done in one day by a crew that will include up to 10 crew members and three 26-ft. trucks."

Overall, the firm employs contractors - not designers - who mainly evaluate construction levels for removal, packing and shipping to any of the Green Demolition locations.

"We don't design, we don't install and we don't refurbish," he stresses. "We don't want to compete with the industry that spawned us."

He concludes: "Basically, the homeowners we deal with don't have time to figure out where their kitchen is going. Because they are so busy, they like the free service and the convenience of recyclable green demolition."

Tuned in

Green Demolitions began with Feldman and a one part-time employee, and in five years has grown to 40 employees, with four stores in four states, including
its main headquarters in Greenwich, CT.

With his experience in radio, Feldman has parlayed early word of mouth into a tremendous amount of press. The company has been covered on CNN and in The New York Times, has received endorsements from celebrities and even has a potential television contract on the horizon.

Feldman is proud that many of the firm's initiatives showcased on its Web site draw tremendous traffic. The company's first customer was a kitchen designer in New Jersey who bought some furniture. The designer continues to refer kitchens to this day.

"Eventually the goal is to have Green Demolitions in every luxury region of America," remarks Feldman. "You have to do a lot of things to make a green demolition work, and we feel that we have the knowledge. So, we're looking at how we can do that expansion - whether it's franchising or licensing - and we're in the process of raising capital for that expansion."

All in all, he says, the Green Demolition concept is a "win-win for the people buying the kitchen, a win-win for the environment and a win-win for the non-profit at the end of the day."