The Salvage Studio in Edmonds, run by Amy Duncan, Beth Evans-Ramos and Lisa Hilderbrand, has skyrocketed in popularity. Their new book, "The Salvage Studio: Sustainable Home Comforts to Organize, Entertain & Inspire," comes out in October.
EDMONDS — Walking through The Salvage Studio is like walking through bits and pieces of your childhood. You’ll find the Monopoly pieces you thought you’d lost, the antique lamps you weren’t supposed to touch, the old clocks and tin pails you’re sure you had tossed.
But here, nothing gets thrown away.
The Salvage Studio is a veritable treasure chest of goodies for the home — recycled materials put to use in different and innovative ways. Forks become miniature easels, table lamps are turned into water fountains and Scrabble pieces are morphed into charms for necklaces.
It’s been about three years since we last checked in with Amy Duncan, Beth Evans-Ramos and Lisa Hilderbrand, the women behind The Salvage Studio. Their business was about a year old then; they combed thrift shops and abandoned farms as far as Central Washington and they had a smaller space in Lynnwood where they taught workshops on transforming trash into treasures.
Most Read Life Stories
- 3 new Seattle places for comforting takeout that food critic Bethany Jean Clement loves
- How to start cross-country skiing — the ideal sport for social distancing
- Thanksgiving: What can and can’t be prepped ahead
- What to do with Thanksgiving leftovers? Try making easy mini turkey potpies | Cooking with Sadie
- Splitting the check can be awkward, and so is ghosting. Here’s how to navigate these dating faux pas
Since then, their world has exploded.
They’ve created a calendar spread for Value Village, given public talks at Ravenna Gardens stores, moved to a bigger studio in Edmonds, started a lively blog, and scored their first book deal and YouTube promotional video.
Today, people regularly contact them, offering family antiques; their trips for junk have taken them all the way to the south of France; and “The Salvage Studio: Sustainable Home Comforts to Organize, Entertain & Inspire” (Skipstone Press) just hit bookstores last week.
The real thing
So, have the three women with a self-proclaimed “lust for rust” changed?
“Not much,” says Evans-Ramos, a gardening enthusiast and organizing wizard who admits that malls still give her the “heebie-jeebies.”
That’s part of why people keep coming back to the studio, and why their workshops often sell out ahead of time. People still identify with who the three women are, and they come to connect with others who have a similar love of recycled goods, Hilderbrand says.
“We’re [all] from a different planet,” she said. “We don’t like going to the mall and the big-box businesses. Why would you buy an expensive reproduction of a table when you can have the genuine vintage table?”
As if on cue, a woman walks into the store. She asks if she can just look around, even though the store is closed.
“If you’re quiet, yes, if you don’t ‘ooh and aah’ too loudly,” Evans-Ramos says playfully. To me, she says, “We really did not give her a quarter.”
The woman, Ginger Franey, is a professional organizer who says she bought one of her favorite things at the studio, an Italian-looking jar she uses to hold flowers and knickknacks.
“It was $8, and the best thing I’ve ever bought,” she says. Whenever she’s in Edmonds, she stops by.
How it came to be
Evans-Ramos met Hilderbrand, a landscape designer, at a garden club seven years ago, and the two quickly bonded, arranging play dates to rifle through garage sales and thrift stores. They held large sales of their own creations, and in 2004, Duncan joined them after she met Evans-Ramos at an estate sale.
Duncan says they grew tired of getting rained on and “hauling stuff all over God’s creation. I said, ‘Why don’t we look into getting a roof over our heads?’ ” Soon after, the three women opened their small shop in Lynnwood.
Word-of-mouth has worked in their favor; the women have never spent a penny on advertising. There are new things in the store every week, which is how they suck in regulars, Hilderbrand says.
After being approached by a book publisher, they started working on their book more than a year ago. Each chapter contains do-it-yourself projects on gardening, entertaining, organizing and reflecting.
In 2006, they also became spokeswomen for Value Village, appearing in a calendar and in brochures. They moved to the larger studio in Edmonds, which allows them to hold bigger workshops, really connecting them to the community, Hilderbrand says.
Their business struck a chord with people, Evans-Ramos says. She wasn’t surprised it took off the way it did.
“I had no idea,” Hilderbrand counters, laughing. “I knew that people would love it, I knew that it would be popular, but I had no idea.”
Having a ball
The women usually work individually, finding junk and making their own creations for the studio. Profits from each piece go to the woman who made it, while profits from pieces they make together are split accordingly.
Each holds her own workshops throughout the year. Upcoming workshops, held on Saturdays, can be found on their Web site, www.thesalvagestudio.com.
The workshops are the most rewarding aspect of their jobs, Evans-Ramos says.
“It’s just like party day here on Saturdays, because people just are happy to see familiar faces and meet new faces,” she says.
Still, they’re not “spring chickens” anymore, Hilderbrand says, referring to their longer hours of work.
“I don’t anticipate things slowing down,” Duncan says. “I mean, times are getting tougher, and hopefully that’ll get people thinking more about how to use and recycle materials instead of buying something new.”
Evans-Ramos says she feels more energetic now than she did in her 20s.
“We’re having a gas,” she says. “We’re having the time of our lives.”