Courtesy Nick Hagen

Woodward Throwbacks Transforms Landfill-Bound Goods into Modern Furniture

The Detroit-based manufacturer is one of is one of several groups drawing on breakthrough research, tools, and sourcing systems to change building-material reuse.

Woodward Throwbacks started the same way a lot of maker companies do–through necessity. Years ago, Kyle Dubay and Bo Shepherd needed to furnish their apartments, and as they rode around and explored Detroit they would discover items they could repurpose in their spaces. “We were just making stuff for ourselves and friends and family, and then we just started selling them,” Dubay says.

Fast-forward ten years and Woodward Throwbacks has a staff of nine people and operates out of a 24,000-square-foot facility where workers fabricate furniture, home accessories, and other items using materials found around the city. 

Dubay and Shepherd believe all materials are fair game, and they accept metal, stone, and wood. Some salvaged materials are used as ingredients in new pieces, while other products are used to make new items, like furniture made from reclaimed wood.

Bo Shepherd and Kyle Dubay, cofounders, Woodward Throwbacks

Though Detroit has many abandoned houses, the company acquires most of its material from commercial sources. “We always want to set the record straight that we’re never just going into houses and getting materials,” says Shepherd, who used to design automotive interiors for General Motors. “We’re a really big part of the community, and we’re known as the people to call when materials are coming out of a home, or a building is getting renovated.”

Woodward Throwbacks opened its first showroom, Throwbacks Home, last year in downtown Detroit’s Capitol Park. The shop features furniture made from reclaimed and recycled materials, and a selection of curated home goods, vintage clothing, and gifts.

In recent years, the company has diversified its products and services, incorporating interior design and collaborating with retailers such as Target and Nordstrom. The couple bought, renovated, and sold an old house that was originally intended to be a potential material salvage project. And a little while back they bought a warehouse that will become their new home.

Despite the company’s success, Shepherd says it’s hard work: “There’s sourcing the material, deconstructing material, then processing the material, then creating. There are so many layers, but it’s a labor of love.”

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