Rescued for reuse, repurpose

  • Castle Architectural Salvage owner Ron Pike, and his wife Melissa Pike, stand for a portrait alongside a restored cast iron phone booth at the Northampton store. Gazette Photo/Sarah Crosby

For The Recorder
Thursday, August 17, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — After Ron Pike left his job as an insurance adjuster two years ago, he did something unusual for someone unemployed — he went on a shopping spree.

He wasn’t buying clothes, a car or gifts for his family. He was collecting vintage and antique doors, windows, cabinets and other items for the business he planned to start, Castle Architectural Salvage.

After about a year and a half of preparation, the shop opened its doors on May at 7 Pearl St.

“Before we were open, people were knocking on the door and looking in the windows,” Melissa Pike, Ron’s wife, said. “Everything has gone smoothly.”

The store offers a range of vintage and antique furnishings and decor. Beyond doors, windows and cabinets, which Ron Pike said are intended for home or business remodels, the store also has smaller trinkets including typewriters, test tubes, door hinges, giant African masks and more.

Items change as things come in and go out — people can bring in items they would like to sell to the store — and the business owners have an off-site storage facility for the extra items that won’t fit in the Pearl Street location.

Though a majority of the shop’s business so far has been in selling items to individual buyers, the Pikes expect growth in rentals of their items. Ron Pike envisioned the business in part as a resource for theater groups, wedding planners, movies producers and others in need of props or set pieces.

Ron Pike said the idea for the business came when he visited a similar store in Boston. After careers as a building materials dealer and an insurance adjuster, he said he felt well-suited to open a similar store.

“Throughout the years, I made hundreds and hundreds of contacts, so it put me in the perfect position to move onto a business like this,” Ron Pike said. “I thought it would be a good mix of past experiences.”

He said there also seemed to be a need for this kind of store in this area, especially in a time when many people are drawn to anything vintage.

“I think 35 years ago, most people would have felt the need to purchase new, and it’s only recently people feel the need to repurpose and reuse,” he said. “There’s a need to save part of the past.”

Ron Pike said he researches information online to verify authenticity of items in case that comes into question, but many items are pulled out of buildings or brought into the store with a history attached.

A number of the items in the store came from throughout the Pioneer Valley and from Northampton, including a pie safe found recently in a building on Main Street. The pie safe, which is basically a cabinet, had sat in an unused floor of the building for years. Now on display in the shop, it still has newspaper from 1927 as shelf liner inside.

Other items come from throughout New England, with Ron Pike frequently traveling to estate sales and buildings set to be remodeled in search of items he thinks are unusual.

Once, when in Connecticut, Pike visited a three-story building constructed in the late 1800s that was occupied at the time by a German immigrant family who manufactured silverware. The family converted an industrial butter churn into a silverware polisher, but the contraption went unused when the factory started manufacturing firearms for World War I.

The machine sat collecting further dust when the factory closed for 30 years, but then Ron Pike found it. The item is now for sale in the shop.

“It was just lost to time,” Ron Pike said. “I’d like to say I rescued it.”