PALM HARBOR — Josh and Jessica White have picked their way through the Deep South, as well as places like India, Mexico, Central America, Sri Lanka, Eastern Europe and Bali.
They've scavenged old homes, farms, schoolhouses, factories, churches, hospitals and hotels to find objects with just the right vintage aesthetic.
The result of their continuing treasure hunts is Tampa Bay Salvage, a business that would likely appeal to HGTV fans.
"We try and find stuff no one else has," said Josh White, 41.
White, a skilled carpenter, welder, glass artist and renovation specialist, founded the business in 2010 after he and Jessica, 37, moved from New Jersey to Florida. They have two children.
Previously, he was a self-described "B" actor appearing in DYI Network's Operation Salvage, a series with his brother and father, who also have careers in the architectural salvage business. He has starred in an episode of Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe on the Discovery Channel and was featured in This Old House magazine.
The front of the shop at 4825 Alt. U.S. 19 in Palm Harbor is tricked out with some of their favorite picks, timeworn objects full of uncompromised character.
Take the flooring for instance. It's made of gymnasium bleacher seats still coated with the original finish, proudly flaunting splats of old chewing gum, carved names and hearts.
"You can't replicate that," White said. "These are arguably better than new. Not just because of the charm, but because wood milled long ago came from harder, larger trees."
Reclaimed wood in a variety of shades and patinas covers the back wall; an old weathered ship's helm and other objects of interest are on display.
Aged tin can pendant lights hang from the ceiling. They were made in the onsite wood and welding shop, where craftsmen create custom furniture, decor and flooring from lumber, metal and found items.
Beyond the front shop, a 10,000- square- foot warehouse showcases a current inventory best described as a fusion of Indonesian, industrial, Americana, nautical and rustic chic.
Foo dogs will beg for your attention. Buddahs will pray for you. Old house parts — doors, windows, fireplace mantles, hardware and sinks — are looking for a new home.
Vintage seltzer bottles are a hot seller at $22 apiece. Driftwood horse heads from Bali sell for $275 each; old railroad lanterns from India are posted at $56.
Varicolored yellow, blue and green metal industrial chairs plucked from Bali ($48 each) have proven to be a very popular item.
Many of the objects have been repurposed. A long-tail boat now has shelves and serves as a bookcase. A railroad cart, its top restored with red barn wood, will look nice as someone's coffee table.
"The more unique and funky things are, the more people want them," White said.
There is currently a good supply of suar wood, a strong and sturdy variety from Bali that may be used indoors or out because it fares so well in Florida's humid climate. The species' bands of color and asymmetrical shapes create interesting vibes and sculptural lines for custom made furniture.
For White, it's all about being creative and doing what he loves.
"This is our business and our passion; our yin and yang," said White. "We just have a lot of fun."