If you’ve ever restored or renovated an old house or just love old architectural items, then you will appreciate Rodger Parzyck’s “hoarder” gene.
The owner of The Heritage Company Architectural Salvage & Supply, at 150 N. Edwards St., has been salvaging materials from old homes and buildings for nearly 35 years and selling them from his store in downtown Kalamazoo. His shop has everything — and we do mean everything — from hardware such as hinges, locks and doorknobs to lights, furniture, trim, fireplace mantels and doors. And, yes, kitchen sinks.
It isn’t just owners of old houses who frequent his shop, says Parzyck.
“Popular TV shows have increased interest in our business, programs like Salvage Dogs, Pickers and Fixer Upper have led to people coming in looking for trendy things,” he says. “Pinterest too. People want to put old stuff on new construction. Chippy paint is popular and other items that have character. We sell more windows that are used for decorating than replacements, and French doors for wedding backdrops. All of a sudden, sliding barn doors are a thing, and now everyone wants a unique pantry door. I never realized how many people have pantries!”
You’re from Detroit. How did Kalamazoo become home?
I came (to West Michigan) to attend Grand Valley (State University) and then Western Michigan University. After graduation, I was accepted into the physician assistant program at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and ended up moving back here from D.C. in 1978. At that time Bronson Methodist Hospital didn’t have P.A.s on staff — the role was new — but they did hire me as an emergency room tech. Part of my role was running clinical drug studies in a program Bronson had with the (former) Upjohn Co.
What drew you to architectural salvage?
When I was studying to be a P.A., I heard about a group trying to save some old buildings that my university wanted to tear down. I got involved in historic preservation by joining that group. After moving back here in 1978, somehow I became chair of the city of Kalamazoo’s Historic (Preservation) Commission, which I did for almost 20 years.
How did your business get started?
There was a church downtown that planned to tear down a house that I wanted to save from demolition. We couldn’t save the house, but we ended up with a lot of salvaged materials, which I stored in my garage. I remember salvaging in my own neighborhood when someone threw out double glass oak doors. We ended up renting a little 700-square-foot storefront on Locust Street by what is now O’Duffy’s Pub. We were only open on Wednesday evenings and Saturdays.
A year later we moved to a building by Louie’s Tavern (now called Louie’s Trophy House Grill), on North Street, and then again to Kalamazoo Avenue into what would become the Old Dog Tavern.
In 1996, I purchased and renovated this building (on Edwards Street) with a number of investors. We wanted this to be our permanent location, and it has turned out to be perfect for what we do. I couldn’t afford to run this business if I didn’t own the building. With the little income we generate, renting would not be feasible. This isn’t a lucrative business.
Why do you do what you do?
Maybe I have a hoarder gene. I don’t know. There are so many beautiful things I can’t bear to have destroyed, and I’ve been collecting them for 35 years. As a society we throw away so much stuff. Why? It wasn’t so much for environmental reasons at the time I started but rather trying to save historical items that have value. I feel grateful to have been able to parlay what I love doing into a business. I enjoy doing it.
This business has been a good fit for my personal life as well. I met my wife, Lia (Gaggino), when she was a medical student. In 1992, after we had two daughters, I decided to give up my P.A. role to do this business and support my wife in her career as a pediatrician. I loved being a “room mom,” coaching T-ball and having the flexibility of being my own boss and setting my own hours to alleviate the strain of my wife’s demanding schedule. Lia recently retired from practicing medicine and now hosts a podcast called Pediatric Meltdown with Lia Gaggino, which focuses on children’s behavioral and mental health. For a lighter, grown children’s take on things, our adult daughters recently did an episode called “Cool Dad, Anxious Mom,” where they talked about how I packed their lunches (and) gave sentimental gifts with inspirational quotes and how bath time was them watching Cheers on a little black-and-white TV while I sat on a closed toilet writing letters to the City Commission about historic preservation.
I still make breakfast for my wife every morning. I still do the laundry. It’s the way relationships should be. Our 38th wedding anniversary is coming up soon.
What are some of the ways your business and the customers you serve have changed over time?
A lot of what we do has remained the same through the years. Folks renovating old homes usually want to use replacement materials such as locks and doors. We have about a thousand doors in our shop right now. Our shoppers are typically homeowners, and they come from all over — Traverse City, Detroit, Fort Wayne, Cleveland, Chicago.
We’re getting more young shoppers now, which is nice. Antiques kind of fell out of favor, but over time low-quality, disposable furniture, which is often seen curbside because it’s not repairable, has led people to find the value in old furniture. It’s a quality issue. It matters to folks that they can have solid wood pieces with character, good design and wonderful joinery that will last forever.
What else should we know about you?
I’m not a curmudgeon, which people might think if they read the one really bad review I have online, which says, “The prices are too high, and the owner is a tool.” I don’t even know what that means.
Also, I spend a fortune on birdseed and peanuts for squirrels and blue jays. I’ve been feeding ducks here for nearly 10 years. Once, we counted 75. Police have dubbed them the Edwards Street Ducks.
I love this town. There are so many cool people that chose to start businesses here — Judy (Sarkozy) at Sarkozy’s Bakery, Dean (Hauk) at Michigan News Agency, Larry (Bell) at Bell’s Brewery, Julie (Stanley) at Food Dance, Jamie (Kavanaugh) at O’Duffy’s Pub, Sean (Smith) at Old Dog Tavern, Rich (Munda) at Martini’s, Mark (Smutek) at Water Street Coffee. These are the independent businesses that give our community character.
— Interview by Donna McClurkan, edited for length and clarity.