April 17, 2014

Linking the Past to the Present

Historic preservation student Sam Constantine gives new life to old wood

by Linda Hass, Published August 08, 2012

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YPSILANTI - Sam Constantine (BA08) turned his bachelor's degree in history into an award-winning business that offers clients a chance to own a piece of the past. Constantine, 32, is co-founder of The End Grain Woodworking Co. (TEGWC) in Livonia, which makes handcrafted home décor items from the reclaimed wood of old abandoned homes in Detroit.

"Our products are not only attractive and functional, they're conversation starters," says Constantine, who is now working on a master's degree in historic preservation at EMU.

A case in point is a framed mirror made from salvaged glass and wood taken from a house built in 1917. In the process of deconstructing the house, workers found an old, dog-eared diary. "After researching the home's former owners, I located a surviving relative and gave her the diary. She was thrilled to inherit an unexpected heirloom," says Constantine, adding all TEGWC's products have interesting stories behind them.

Constantine and co-founder Chris Behm, 36, of Livonia, get salvaged materials from Reclaim Detroit, a newly formed organization dedicated to the reuse of materials from deconstructed buildings in Detroit. The duo takes these materials, which reflect the lumps and bumps of life, and resurrect them into functional works of art.

"Our creations link the past to the present and give clients a chance to own a historic piece of the state," Constantine says. Costs range from $40 for a set of wooden coasters to $400 for a coffee table. Pieces take several hours to several weeks to complete, depending on their complexity, says Constantine.

The duo displays their handiwork at street fairs, markets and advertises products on their business Facebook website: www.facebook.com/TheEndGrainWoodworkingCo. Typical clients include homeowners and interior designers.

After only one year, TEGWC has carved an impressive niche for itself in this unique market, thanks to an award that boosted its patronage. This spring, it won the Detroit ReNailed "Best in Show" for a chess set made from reclaimed 2 x 4s and lath and the "People's Choice Award" for an innovative bookshelf made from reclaimed 2 x 4s and clapboard. Detroit ReNailed was a symposium that showcased Reclaim Detroit.

Being part of Eastern's historic preservation program has helped Constantine secure a full-time internship with Zachary & Associates, a Detroit-based firm that provides consulting services in various phases of economic development, including preservation of Detroit's historic structures. 

The firm hired him because it was impressed with his organizational skills as a volunteer, says Diane Van Buren, president of Zachary & Associates, who is on track to receive a master's of science degree in historic preservation from Eastern as well. Constantine's internship duties include writing reports for government reviews of federally funded historic projects and assisting with grant preparation for the renovation of the Hellenic Museum of Michigan, Detroit.

"I love being a part of a business that's making a positive difference in Detroit. Historic preservation does more than save old buildings; it protects the places that tell the stories of our past," says Constantine. "After reflecting on my time at EMU, the connections I've made and the skills I've learned, I realize how it has all come together for personal and professional growth. Many of the goals I had envisioned are unfolding right before my eyes. I can't wait to see where the program will take me."

For more information on Eastern's historic preservation program, go to http://www.emich.edu/geo/preservation/index.php

Geoff Larcom

glarcom@emich.edu

734.487.4400

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