A few years ago, I met Steve Feldman, the Founder, and CEO of Renovation Angel, on a panel presentation at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS). Steve has had an interesting career path with an unusual twist, and in 2001, he stumbled into an incredible market that nobody else was doing at the time.
He is joining me on the podcast today to share the fascinating story behind Renovation Angel, and to talk about its process and achievements, his grand vision, and the positive way the project impacts the whole community.
I’m excited to share our conversation with you today and to give you something new to think about, regarding ways to recycle and reuse things in the home.
Steve Feldman’s colorful background
Steve used to be a rock and roll DJ back in 1979. His first job was playing classic rock from eight in the evening until one in the morning, at a radio station in Westerly, Rhode Island. He stayed with the radio station for eighteen years, moving up from a DJ, to Program Director, to Sales Manager, and finally to Senior Marketing Manager for three stations, where he was selling radio advertising and doing the marketing side of the radio.
Doing fund-raising for recovery
Steve is also a recovered addict. He has been in recovery for thirty-two years now, and he shocked the radio industry in 1998 when he announced that he was leaving his respected position to do fund-raising for addiction recovery.
A thirty-million dollar loss
He started his fund-raising in Greenwich, Connecticut, where he managed to find a very wealthy donor who was worth one hundred million dollars. Then, in the 2001 stock market crash, his donor lost thirty million dollars, so she gave Steve his final check, and wished him good luck.
A great idea
The next-door neighbor of Steve’s wealthy donor was the queen of Iran, the wife of the Shah. And in her driveway was a sign, saying “Demolition in Progress”. Steve was curious, so he drove up to the mansion, only to find that there was nothing there apart from a huge pile of bricks. That sparked the idea for him to start earning money in a bad economy, rather than asking people to donate it to his cause.
An innovative way to earn money
He decided to make some money by getting kitchen fixtures and furniture donated out of mansions that were being demolished or renovated.
An article in the Greenwich Time newspaper
Steve shared his idea with a real estate agent who knew the editor of the Greenwich Time newspaper. The real estate agent then spoke to the editor, and so, in October of 2001, the Greenwich Time did an article about his idea.
Learning how to recycle kitchens
After the article came out, Steve got thirty-six phone calls, from architects, builders, designers, real estate agents, and even from hedge-fund managers. So he spent the next four years learning how to recycle kitchens, and how to sell them.
Growing the program
Steve’s program started to grow from word of mouth only because he did not have a website, or even a name for the program, at the time.
Running a full-time program
Then, in 2005, he decided to see what would happen if he ran his program on a full-time basis. So he obtained some seed money and started running the program with the name, Green Demolitions.
The darlings of Greenwich
The Green Demolitions team became the darlings of Greenwich, and within three years, they grew to have thirty-five employees and stores in Connecticut, the Catskills, and the Poconos.
The banking crisis
The enterprise grew, and they were recycling hundreds of kitchens. And then, the banking crisis happened in 2008. They were fortunate, however, in that the New York Times had done a full-page article on Green Demolitions in April of 2008, which allowed them to get some notoriety in New York City.
Changing and growing
Over the next four years, things changed. Steve transferred the entire operation to the name, Renovation Angel and, in 2012, he and his team moved into a 43,000 square foot store in Fairfield, New Jersey, and they expanded into nationwide recycling.
They got a lot of celebrity support, and the operation continued to grow from strength to strength.
In fifteen years, they have recycled over 7000 kitchens, created over $25,000,000 worth of new recycling jobs, and they have written checks for $2.3 million to charities helping addiction recovery, youth at risk, and homelessness.
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