BRIDGEPORT — The reclaimed wood and reused metal found in trendy bars, grocery stores and chain coffee shops nationwide may have started its second life in a gritty Bridgeport warehouse.
The Bubbly Dynamics building, a creative industrial hub at 1048 W. 37th St., is where woodworker Michael Pendleton and metalsmith J. Taylor Wallace turn "trash" into sustainable furniture and fixtures for clients such as Starbucks and Whole Foods.
While Wallace and Pendleton work on smaller projects as well, much of their business is done with Icon Modern, which designs and sells sustainable furniture to major corporate clients. Icon is run by Rocky Levy, who counts on the Bridgeport craftsmen to help fill orders for clients nationwide.
"[Icon Modern] finds creative designs they like and asks if we can sort of riff on that or some sort of replication and that's what we try to do," Wallace said.
Wallace, 33, obtains a lot of the material for his Metal Magic shop from D. Wexler & Sons, a Back of the Yards steel warehouse.
Between Icon Modern contract work and various other projects, it's enough work to keep five people employed, a point of pride for Wallace.
"I think the greatest thing is to give people work and to let them do something they're happy about and can come back tomorrow," he said.
Downstairs at Bubbly Dynamics, Pendleton works among a labyrinth of wood stacks. Much of his material comes from the Rebuilding Exchange, a North Side warehouse packed with salvaged, reusable materials.
"It's fun. You've got the material that's got this character and you just roll with it," Pendleton said.
For Levy, of Highland Park, business is booming.
Using his connections as a former high-end office furniture salesman, he began exploring the "gaping-wide opportunity" in the sustainable furniture market and created his small business and started big — his first customer was Starbucks.
"It was hand-in-hand with what they wanted to do," he said. "They keep me very busy."
You can now see Icon Modern's work in various incarnations at casinos, hotels, clubs and restaurants across the country.
"People are just like, 'Oh my God. this is what we've been looking for'," he said. "They knew this existed but didn't know where to look."