Salvage celebrity built on a BSC foundation
Published: Sep 02 2015
Sitting at a 1930s leather banquette near the loading dock of his business, West End Architectural Salvage, Don Short wears shorts, a worn t-shirt, a ball cap and hiking shoes. He’s a little dusty, ready to move a treasure from one sunlit corner of his four-story, 50,000 square foot warehouse and retail space to another. His relaxed demeanor and ready banter belie the attentive eye for detail reflected in the fascinating elements layered throughout the space located in the heart of Des Moines, Iowa.
It’s that combination of a good eye and good fun that landed Short his own television show, “West End Salvage,” now in its second season on the DIY network.
West End Salvage, the warehouse, is all exposed brick, tin ceilings and aged wooden beams. Each floor is carefully curated – doors, columns, windows, lintels and mantels from every era on the 4th floor. A multitude of brightly colored marquee letters, numbers and signs can be found on the third floor. On the first floor hundreds of light fixtures from industrial pendants to crystal chandeliers hang over mid-century office furniture, curio cabinets, and Frank Lloyd Wright inspired cracked leather sofas. A weathered life size aviator made of iron looks down upon new purses made from old burlap and leather. A six foot round diameter stained glass windows is the backdrop for art deco lamps and seed chests.The warehouse also serves as an entertainment venue, hosting three to six events each week in its eclectic front room resplendent with an antique mahogany bar serving up local craft beers and wine.
“West End Salvage,” the television program, highlights all the ways Short finds, sells and repurposes his treasures. Produced by Pie Town Productions which also produces HGTV favorites like “House Hunters” and “Flip or Flop,” Short says season two of the show has gotten closer to his brand of fun – off the cuff and irreverent.
In the first season the team did room makeovers, which isn’t their forte. “In the second season we did projects which is more of what we do. A boat cut in half and mounted on the wall. A bike table. Lots of cool projects.”
Short grew up on a ranch near Beach, N.D. where he always fixed things. “We restored a covered wagon, fixed sickle mowers, and we even built a big waterbed frame.” From the ranch, Short went to BJC, playing football in 1979-80, then on to UND, landing in Iowa in 1985.
West End Salvage started with a garage sale designed to rid Short of the salvage he’d collected from 20+ remodeling projects. He purchased the warehouse in 2007. Today,despite a minimal web presence, Short ships and receives items from all over the country. “People randomly come in with pickings. I got a container a couple weeks ago full of stuff from Europe and Texas. I just got a bunch of light fixtures from Egypt.”
He likes to salvage broadly and stock a variety that is “fresh and different.”
“Beadboard cabinets are great but you can find them everywhere.”
In addition to selling salvage, Short also designs new pieces from the old – a bar made from old wine casks for instance. “People come to me with ideas. They’ve basically designed what they want, I just draw it up and sometimes tip it upside down.”
“People want to have something one-of a kind, unique, that’s what we do.”
For more about the business, the DIY show and all things unique and salvaged visit westendsalvage.com.
Watch a clip of Short’s interview for BSC Magazine