By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There’s a place in Minneapolis where you’ll find a little bit of everything — and it all comes with a story.

City Salvage is exactly how it sounds.

They take old, unwanted items and turn them into things that home and business owners simply have to have.

In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen shows us how they turn one man’s trash into another man’s treasure.

On the outside the sign reads: “Madeville Meat Equipment,” which is a tribute to this building’s former life. But inside, the cleavers and butcher knives have been replaced by a world of random things.

“This is what we do. We’ve never failed,” said John Eckley.

For nearly 50 years, Eckley has had an “eye for architecture.” Specifically, an eye for old buildings that are about to meet their demise, including historic houses, Swedish churches — even nightclubs. For him, what’s inside is like finding buried treasure.

WCCO asked Eckley if he has trouble watching some of these buildings go down, to which he replied, “Absolutely. It’s tough to say ‘no’ to a lot of things because once you are in there, it’s a free fall.”

Which is why Eckley and his partner Jennifer Jansen go cross-country trying to save relics. They take what’s old and make it new again, repurposing with a purpose from small oddities to bigger sellers.

“I like being able to touch something knowing that it has history. It intrigues me. And I love finding out. I like doing the research and finding out the stories,” said Jansen.

There are about 200 wooden doors for sale, along with lighting and old records. Eckley himself is in the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, and his picture may or may not be for sale.

“We were in a band back in the ’60s called the Novas. We did a song called ‘The Crusher,'” said Eckley.

But his pride lies in his bars.

He’s found them in old warehouses and clubs where business has gone dry. Taking days to tear them down and haul them back — sometimes from coast to coast. Then, he puts them back together and gives them new life.

“This one is a great bar — 1938. All stainless steel, all hand built,” said Eckley, while pointing to one of his projects. “The chase. That’s a huge part of this. You find something, you hear about something, and you find it and you save it.”

Architects, designers and builders have all become customers, but now there’s a new generation that’s showing an appreciation for artifacts. They’re buying into Eckley’s motto, which is “When in doubt, salvage.”

“I think they are realizing the beauty, the artistry, that is in a lot of these older pieces you will never see again. In fact, a lot of these trades and crafts have totally vanished,” said Eckley. “I think the stories sell themselves. Sell the product themselves.”

John Lauritsen