Let’s celebrate the hardest workers we know. At OXX our products are built tough to get the job done. We are inspired by the people that put in the time and effort to do things the right way. Whether they’re in the shop, on the jobsite, or in the field they continue to define hard work. We want to know what fuels them, how they got where they are now, and uncover what happens behind the grind. They are the leaders of the Herd, and these are their stories.
Two brothers from Chicago, Anthony & Rob DiVito, have created the thriving business known as Industrial Reclaim. Their opposing mindsets and incredible skill result in the creation of unique vintage pieces. They took a moment out of their day to step out of their noisy shop to tell us more about their story. Family and hard work come together in this installment of Behind the Grind.
How did Industrial Reclaim begin? When did you become makers?
Anthony: We were in the screen printing industry for a while, and we would go to auctions and see a lot of stuff going to scrap yards. We thought, why throw that away? Then we started taking stuff and rebuilding it into things just for fun. After some people wanted us to build stuff for them, we started making a couple pieces. The demand kept coming and we kept growing and we started stopped printing. What we do is all trial and error. People assume that our parents were in carpentry, but I don’t know if our father would even be able to turn on half of our equipment. When we were kids that we built skateboard ramps with the most primitive tools ever. We actually still have the first jigsaw we got when we were like 10 buried somewhere in the shop. When we got that thing it was our prized possession. Now it is literally a royal piece of junk. We never had any formal training or trade school, we wanted to learn how to do it so we did.
Rob: We have definitely messed up a few times. But then we learned how not to do something, and it makes for a good story. Just being brothers in business together definitely provides for an interesting work environment. Most places it would probably be called harassment…
Anthony: We get in a fair amount of arguments, but that’s happened since we were kids. We’ve got two different mindsets and that can actually help our work. Especially because we don’t work normal hours here. Right now we are so busy, we’ll probably be here 12 hours a day for the next two weeks. We work on the run. We make every piece unique, we don’t try and mass produce our products.
What impact does the reclaimed wood you use have on your style?
Anthony: It really dictates what a piece is going to be in the end. Depending on where we get certain items if they come from an old warehouse or factory or barn. Every wood has distinct characteristics. We try and keep it in its natural form and keep it as close to that as possible. Let it tell the story instead of us trying to mold it into something else. We get wood and projects and bases from all over. Our style has a midwest feel and the metal work we do is also very modern.
How do you define hard work?
Anthony: I traded stock options for over 10 years, this is a different aspect of hard work. Long hours are nothing new to me, the difference is all about creating your way. Hard work is more than just hours and time, it’s how you can make it work. How it all comes together. Working hard to run a business is one thing but you have to work hard to have a family too.
Rob: Plenty of coffee helps.
Anthony: We go through more than our fair share of coffee and caffeine in general. It’s probably not up to health standards, I think if a doctor saw my caffeine intake they’d be worried.
Rob: It comes down to how you make it through the day and what you’re trying to accomplish. If you aren’t working for anything what are you even doing?
What does a typical day look like for you?
Anthony: I wish I could say there is a typical day around here. Because we work with reclaimed wood, we may only have 8-10 hours to go get a building full of material before it’s demolished. We just stripped the interior of a 1940s bowling alley. We had to take 800 feet of flooring completely apart in two days. There is no typical work flow.
Rob: Wood work, steel work, everyday is different.
What was one of your proudest moments as makers?
Rob: I’m proud everyday that we have 10 fingers and 10 toes when we walk out of here. We also made a huge conference table and shipped it all the way to LA.
Anthony: We are still a pretty young company. Those moments of pride happen weekly as we become better builders and designers.
What is the best part of your job?
Rob: Not having to answer to anyone, having freedom. When you finish a piece and it comes out just like you pictured it. And then see someone else enjoy it that’s a good feeling.
Anthony: The craziest part is that you can’t buy the wood we use anymore. You can’t buy the lumber you get from these old buildings because the way wood is deforested now doesn’t allow the wood to mature. The reclaimed wood looks the way it does because it came from a different time, when the trees grew for many years before they were cut down. We are trying to do different things, the desire to put things out on a mass scale isn’t there. Ilike making those unique, special projects.
What do you aspire to accomplish in your lifetime?
Rob: I want to be comfortable. You’ll always have headaches, no matter how successful you become but I want to be comfortable.
Anthony: I’ll say this, we tell people our stuff is made to be passed down because it will be around for a while. So we aren’t worried about legacy or making a mark because our product will do that on its own. There is nothing of ours that is IKEA grade, it will most likely outlive several generations.
How do you take your coffee?
Anthony: I’ll drink either a latte or just straight black. It depends how sleep deprived I am.
Rob: I like it super sugary, so I like it pretty weak.
Anthony: You definitely drink more sugar than any normal person should.