BRATTLEBORO -- This is not exactly how Erich Kruger envisioned it would end when he founded ReNew Building Materials and Salvage in 2005.
For about five years Kruger ran the company, which deconstructed buildings and resold the lumber and fixtures that were collected from the sites. In July 2010 the ReNew board of directors terminated Kruger, citing the company's growing deficit, and since then Kruger moved on to other pursuits.
But this week he was back inside the massive warehouse on Town Crier Drive, cleaning up the now shuttered business and selling windows, doors and fixtures to anyone who happened to drive up without realizing that ReNew has been closed for almost a year.
"It's kind of bittersweet. It didn't have to happen this way," he said while taking a break from his work. "It's a mess right now, but at least I know it is being done right."
After being let go by the ReNew board, Kruger continued working in the trade and last year he helped start Deconstruction Works, which became a worker-owned cooperative this year.
Crews from Deconstruction Works travel out to sites where buildings are being cleaned out or torn down, and last month Deconstruction Works employees, including Krueger, began to clean out the ReNew warehouse for new owner John Stronk, who purchased the building from ReNew after the ReNew board declared bankruptcy and sold off its assets.
Deconstruction Works is trying to sort the trash from the treasures and get the building presentable for the next tenants, and Kruger was in his element as a contractor stopped by one day last week looking for materials. The contractor did not know that ReNew had closed and was happy to find Kruger and his crew. After walking around the warehouse for a few minutes Kruger found the perfect shutters and made the sale.
"We are trying to find a home for as much of this stuff as we can so the new owner can show a clean and empty building," he said.
When Kruger was let go in 2010 he said at the time that he was surprised by the board's action, which was taken while Kruger was out of town. But he continued to support the mission of ReNew and during the following few years he said he always hoped the business would be able to regain its footing.
"I still don't have much insight into how that decision was made," he said as he cleaned out the building last week. "Things like this happen all the time in nonprofits. Things might have been different if there was continuity, and if they let me work with the next director and share some of my skills, but no one talked to me."
Over the next few years, ReNew experimented with different business models and tried to keep the company going but it continued to lose money. ReNew closed its doors for good in July 2013 and later that year the organization declared bankruptcy. After ReNew declared bankruptcy the board had to sell what it could and all of the shelving was stripped from the warehouse.
Kruger said the crew from Deconstruction Works is sorting through the piles, selling what it can and carting off piles of glass, metal and paper to be recycled.
Kruger has made it his career to find the value in the what others see as trash, and to understand the cycles of materials. As he waded through what was left of ReNew he said there were lessons to be learned among the paint cans, rusty light fixtures and hidden gems.
"This gives us one more opportunity to try to sell some of this stuff before it heads to the Dumpster," Kruger said. "I've done a lot of soul searching about this. It was hard to watch it decline after I left but here I am, trying to find new homes for this stuff. It all comes full circle."
Deconstruction Works will be selling off the remainder of the ReNew inventory at a series of tag sales scheduled for Saturday mornings through June.
On June 7, 14, 21, and 28, cash and carry sales will be held from 9 a.m. to noon at the ReNew Salvage building on Town Crier Drive, off of Putney Road in north Brattleboro.
For more information go to facebook.com/deconstructionworksvt.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.