The current MSS Team. From left to right: Dennis, Scott, Danny, Kaitlyn, and Christine
The mission of Franklin Heritage, Inc. is to preserve the integrity of Central Indiana's architectural history. While preservation comes first, there are rare occasions where a building can't be saved, and salvage is the next best option. Madison Street Salvage (350 East Madison Street) is Franklin Heritage, Inc.'s hub for architectural salvage, antiques, and vintage furniture – with the funds helping support the Historic Artcraft Theatre. Over the last 12 years, the business went from a pole barn to a thriving business located in the restored building where McCarty's Franklin Bakery resided.
I sat down with Danny Causey, Director of Historic Preservation (a.k.a. "the salvage guy"), to talk about the salvage business's history and the building's restoration.
What is Madison Street Salvage?
Madison Street Salvage is a 50c3 non-profit antique shop that functions primarily on donations. We're open seven days a week, and folks donate vintage and antique items to us. We sell them to raise money for Franklin Heritage Inc. and its marquee project, The Historic Artcraft Theatre. 100% of our net profits benefit Franklin Heritage Inc. We are a part of a very thriving community here in town, where there are about 11 or 12 antique stores. We like to participate with all the other antique stores in the vintage fest twice a year and all the downtown shopping events. Folks just never know what's going to come here. We typically post all of our new items as they come on Facebook and Instagram, and our website.
Old shop location on opening day, Sept. 21, 2013
How did the salvage business begin?
We started out like a glorified garage sale in a pole barn. It's grown over nine years into this 5,000-square-foot shop. You will never know what we will have!
Rob Shilts and I realized we needed to find a more permanent home for our store. We ended up finding this location. It was a decent building, but it required a lot of repairs. We bought it approximately six years ago.
In 2008, was where the idea for a salvage store began. 2008 was the devastating flood in downtown Franklin. A neighborhood over by the cemetery was scheduled to be entirely demolished by FEMA. It is where the urban forest is now. City workers, Rob Shilts, and FHI volunteers went to save all the items in these homes that weren't entirely underwater. They stored the things they gathered in a warehouse. At the time, people could make appointments to go and look at it, but it wasn't a store. Then they hired me to do the marketing for the Artcraft at the time and to open a store. We were open for about three-four hours a week on Saturdays, thinking it would just be a few hundred dollars a month. We quickly realized that there was a desire for people to come by architectural salvage, and there was a need for something like that in Franklin.
Being a historic preservation group, it was super important to us that folks knew we were not actively trying to tear down buildings. Rarely do we salvage a structure that will be torn down because the city of Franklin does an excellent job protecting its buildings. The tagline you can see painted on our wall is "Preservation first, salvage second."
Now, most of our inventory comes from people cleaning their garages, basements, or relatives' houses.
Historic McCarty’s Bakery
What did the building used to be?
The building was built in 1919, so it's over 100 years old. It was originally built as the Franklin Bakery, which had a location more in central downtown Franklin. And then they expanded. The bakery baked a large amount of bread in Johnson County – one brand was Sally Brown Bread. After the bakery, it became McCarty's Franklin Bakery. When it became McCarty's, they remodeled the building and added the deli, where our big windows come from. We hear stories nonstop about the bakery. Most people say that the donuts were legendary. I have one volunteer who swears that she could smell yeast when we did the restoration!
Several other businesses occupied the space over the years, too, like an auto repair shop, a TV repair shop, and a company called Holbrook metal manufacturing.
Restoration of 350 East Madison Street.
What was it like restoring the building?
When Franklin Heritage bought the place, it was pretty much just a storage facility, very rundown. Like any of our other properties, we researched what the building looked like during different periods. And we tried, of course, being a historic preservation group, to do things correctly and restore it to its heyday.
It was a massive step for us because, at that time, Franklin Heritage was much smaller than it is now. We ended up getting a facade grant from the Franklin Development Corporation. And then we invested our own money and ended up restoring the building to the tune of about a quarter of a million dollars. We replaced all the systems - electric, HVAC, wiring, windows and doors, and the tuckpointing of all the brick.
Moving day, August 2015 with Franklin College.
How was moving the shop from the pole barn to the new building?
We moved our whole shop in one day. At the time, Franklin College freshman used to have a mandatory service day. Those students came to help us move all the goods. We had the football team at one location loading things into a fleet of trucks that were driving back and forth. Then we had more college students unloading items in the new building. It was crazy, but we moved everything in one day.
What is your favorite part about working at Madison Street Salvage?
I love the people. I have a great relationship with a ton of my customers. It's also exciting for me to see my staff building relationships with customers, too. In addition to that, there is always something different going on. We never know if an exciting item is gonna walk through the door. It's a lot of tough work because you're cleaning a lot and lifting heavy things, but it's also exciting to see an item come in that we can hopefully put into a new home while getting funding for the Artcraft. Artcraft is a beautiful building, but many projects remain with the stage and the ceiling. Madison Street Salvage will be a big part of keeping the organization going forward in the future.
Craftsman Dennis Norman, right, with former staff employee Kelsie Strout.
Tell me about the most interesting thing you've seen restored that is now in someone's home?
Dennis, a volunteer, restored and built a stand-alone cabinet we got in one day out of an old, built-in cabinet. It grabbed the attention of someone from New York City. So they called us and purchased it, they flew here, rented a UHaul truck, and drove it back to New York! They just thought it was the greatest thing ever. Something that we can sell in Indiana for $1,500 to $2,000 is about $8,000 in New York, so they told us they were saving money by doing that. It reminds us how sometimes you don't realize the impact you can have on a national level.
But my favorite item we ever had was a wrought iron fence from a family member of the Wright Brothers! We drove all the way to Ohio to get it. It wasn't from Orville or Wilbur, but from one of their relatives, which was still very cool. Having a wrought iron fence from the Wright brothers' family for a while was pretty amazing.
A visit from American Picker Mike Wolfe.
Last question: Mike Wolfe from the TV show American Picker visited the shop in the summer. Did he buy anything?
Yes, he bought an antique trunk! It wasn't the TV show or anything; it was just him, his girlfriend, and their dog and cat. But they were super cool! We gave them some t-shirts, and in return, they gave us a framed picture of an old cowboy we now have on the wall.
Are you interested in buying, donating, or volunteering with Madison Street Salvage? Check out our website!
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Megan Elaine is a writer and storyteller who lives in Franklin, IN.