Corktown, Detroit. It’s a rainy day in Detroit and the empty lots are in full bloom. Seeing the city for the first time is shocking – areas of desolation, crumbling buildings and a foreboding sense that what was once here is not coming back. Woodward Thowbacks founders Bo Shepard and Kyle Dubay, who connected with each other while riding bikes through the post-industrial city, now see things differently. As they drive to their next salvage job they are inspired by the stories behind the empty homes and factories they pass. They see opportunity to preserve the history and build their company repurposing the raw material slated for the dump. Now Detroit is having a moment. The artist community is giving way to big business – or as Kyle would say, DIY is turning to ROI. Woodward is following suit by expanding into a 24,000 ft² former car dealership, connecting with city officials and local leaders to responsibly collect salvageable materials, and partnering with companies around the city to create large custom installations. It’s part treasure hunt, part history lesson and lots of manual labor.
The windshield wipers come to a sudden halt as they pull up to an abandoned church. As they go about their work taking apart a wooden stage they ruminate on how this building could be reused, things they will make from the wood they save, the types of people who worshipped there in the past and the architectural detail of this forgotten gem. Bo makes sure to document it all for their followers on social media.