Meet James "Deej" Lincoln, founder of Reclaimed Cleveland
, a retail and custom furnishings company in Midtown with 15 employees. The company re-purposes local materials that would otherwise be bound for disposal. The goal of the company is to serve Cleveland’s progression into a sustainable 21st Century, while preserving its history in heirloom quality furniture.
How did you get into re-purposing?
Repurposing, originally, was intended to be a side project for a cabinetry business, The Interior Products Co.
, which I purchased in 2010. Over the following 18 months it became clear that reclaimed wood could not only differentiate our business, it would define it. In July of 2012 we "flipped our sign" and began leading with our Reclaimed Cleveland brand.
What is your training?
Not in woodworking! My undergraduate degree is pre-law and I have an MBA from CWRU
. I was a television producer for MSNBC, Fox, NBC and ESPN when I lived in San Francisco.
When I returned to Cleveland I spent seven years working for a local manufacturing company, Nook Industries
. I left my position as vice president in 2009 and started The Boot Island Group
. Since then my partners, Jeff Milbourn and Brinton Lincoln, have made several investments including Interior Products Co. and wind turbine manufacturer Argosy Wind Power
How did you come up with the idea to upcycle materials from condemned buildings?
The concept of repurposing materials from abandoned structures is not a new one. Reclaimed Cleveland is applying a model of scalability that has not been implemented before. That is, we are diverging from the traditional artisan model by allowing our craftsmen to focus on producing product while we dedicate staff/teams to other specific essential functions including harvesting, processing and marketing. Our ongoing concentration on operational excellence is the foundation for our growth that looks far beyond northeast Ohio.
Who is your customer base?
Architects, interior designers, restaurateurs, hotel operators, business owners, and private clients seeking the aesthetic and environmental benefits of our products. This year we are focusing on growing new national channels that include retailers. We have dedicated resources to this initiative including a new warehouse and retail location in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It is intended to be our foothold for sales in the western states.
How has Reclaimed Cleveland changed your perspective of the city?
It makes me proud and happy to be a Clevelander. The more folks I meet, the more I realize that Cleveland is full of talent and dedication in businesses and people that love what Cleveland has to offer. We are saddled with the burden of past success and recent decline that too often obscures all of the great things that happen here. I believe that if we utilize a combination of diligence, patience and vision we can eliminate this burden and Cleveland will shine as a gem of a city.
What is the most common material you find in old Cleveland-area homes?
Old-growth southern yellow pine, heart pine, maple and oak.
What don’t people know about salvaged materials?
A common misconception is that reclaimed wood is (or should be) cheaper than new material because it is a waste product. Not True. One of the goals and benefits of our operational improvements is the lowest possible cost for a given volume of reclaimed wood. Even so, the cost per linear foot is anywhere from two to six times of new material, primarily because of the amount of labor involved in removing and processing each board.
What is the biggest struggle or hurdle you had to overcome and how did you overcome it?
Alignment and consistency. Between the harvesting, processing, designing, manufacturing and marketing of reclaimed wood product there are a lot of moving parts. We have learned much since we started in each of these areas. We are overcoming the "fits and starts" issues of shifting focus on any given area to having capable team members move each respective area forward simultaneously.
What do you consider a perfect day at work?
Today! Our business has an extremely capable team that learns and improves every day. So today, I can work on growing our business knowing that great progress is ongoing in our business.