As an environmental consultant, Jesse White wanted to keep materials out of landfills. So he opened Sarasota Architectural Salvage, a huge warehouse now filled floor-to-ceiling with antique and handcrafted products and building materials from historic buildings. This summer, White was one of three retailers to receive the Florida Retail Federation’s 2011 Retailer of the Year Award for Leadership.
Why did you win this award? We created a business around a dream, and we’ve done it with community in mind and our employees at heart. We conduct nonprofit fund raisers, we donate goods and services, and we show that retailers can be leaders by giving back to the community. Plus, SAS is fun to shop in, to work in and to party at—people like fun.
What can’t you live without? My store manager, Shawn O’Malley, and my four other employees.
What are you best at? Telling my story. Getting people excited about what we do here.
What you don’t do well: I might have a great idea for making a table, but putting one together will take me three times as long as Shawn and it won’t be as good.
Next goal: I want to develop signature furniture lines created by Sarasota designers using locally salvaged wood. Being able to turn lumber and all those beams and doors into furniture in a beautiful, cost-effective way would be the ultimate recycling.
Mistakes: In the beginning, I overpaid for certain things. But the biggest mistake—which I haven’t made—is to not move on. When you make a mistake, sell it, even at a loss, and make a better decision next time.
Big sales: We sold a bar for $30,000 and a hotel chandelier for $15,000.
Unusual sales: An embalming fluid crate, a six-foot-tall papier-maché butterfly, an armored car and a clown car adorned with architectural salvage.
Book you’re reading: A History of Visual Art in Sarasota, by Pat Ringling Buck, Marcia Corbino and Kevin Dean.
Favorite piece of salvage in your house: A beam from the John Ringling Towers being used as decorative trim.
Words of wisdom for other bosses: Laugh, and laugh at yourself.