You only need to spend a few minutes with Scott Buell, owner of Against the Grain Creative Concepts, to see he is passionate about what he does. It’s as if you’re watching the “American Pickers” television series, or touring a museum. He is part picker, part historian. His shop at 5521 18th Avenue – just west of Downtown Kenosha – features reclaimed materials, vintage, antiques and one-of-a-kind custom pieces. If something still has a life, he’s going to save it. He says it’s unfortunate more can’t be saved. “There’s no point in throwing things away if we can still use it,” Scott says.
Scott and his wife Jaime have agricultural and communications degrees. They’ve lived in Michigan, North Carolina, and Illinois. Scott’s background includes antique furniture restoration. Jaime’s job brought them to Chicago and she told him he needed something to do. What came to his mind were woodworking, reclaiming, and repurposing.
He opened a shop in Chicago, which he had for two years. It was similar to what’s offered in Kenosha, though there was more custom work done there, with more retail and wholesale business here. He decided he needed more space. Scott and Jaime fell in love with Kenosha when they took the shoreline route home to Chicago from a fall colors trip to Door County, Wisconsin. The Kenosha shop opened in the summer of 2016.
Scott and Jaime live upstairs from the business. Their lifestyle here replicates their life in Chicago – they are within walking distance of downtown, their boat in the marina, and the Metra train station. It was important to them to stay on the water, in a walkable community.
The words ‘reclaim’, ‘revive’, and ‘reinvent’ are on their marketing materials. The business features a showroom full of re-purposed furniture, art, and antiques as well as a warehouse of reclaimed and salvaged materials. In addition, Against the Grain does custom jobs for individuals and businesses – “anything and everything”, Scott says. Projects include a sales counter for The Lettering Machine (an embroidery and screen printing shop in Downtown Kenosha), bunk beds, a fireplace mantle, a porch swing, dressers, kitchen benches, and more.
Scott finds the materials and makes the custom pieces with his staff. He also puts on his ‘historian hat’ and shares the history behind his finds. “One of the things we kind of pride ourselves on … if we know the history of a piece, the materials, that story goes with the customer,” Scott says. They can give the address of where the barn was, or the factory, or the house. The customers get that added bonus of information – that they can share with their friends.
At the time of this interview, pieces in the showroom were made out of a sub-floor from an 1800’s factory in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor of Chicago; wood harvested from an 1800’s barn from St. Louis, Michigan, that was slated to be knocked over and burnt; an old pub table from Gatsby’s Restaurant in Racine; barnwood from Caledonia, Wisconsin; and a lath wood base from a Milwaukee factory.
On sale in the showroom are Against the Grain custom pieces, antiques they have picked up from various places, and works from local and regional artists. The warehouse is available for individuals or companies to shop for materials for their own projects. Doors, windows, tools, radiators, railings, barrels, wood, a bargain bin section, and more can be found in this section of Against the Grain. “You name it, we probably have something,” Scott says.
How does Scott find the materials and antiques? He works with a local salvage company that specializes in reclaiming. He goes to garage sales, estate sales, auctions, and shows. As the saying goes - "One man's junk is another man's treasure"; he’ll even discover useable items at the curb. He has many contacts; people call him up. He and his wife still have agricultural connections in Michigan, so he can call a friend and say he needs a barn. He’s working more with Wisconsin barns as well, now.
Items are found locally, regionally, and beyond. Scott says everywhere he and his wife go, they bring something home, whether it was a buying trip or not. Pieces have come from Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin. When he’s out picking, he’ll take a list of what clients are looking for.
Against The Grain hosts events, art exhibits, classes, and even birthday parties. Whether looking for an artsy sign, an antique accessory, a custom piece of furniture, or reclaimed wood for your next DIY project, stop by Against the Grain.
(262) 764-9366, http://www.atgcc.net/