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‘Pickers’ Buy Items From Demolition Site

September 27, 2012
By SHELLEY HANSON - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING - Not every piece of the 1100 block under demolition in downtown Wheeling will end up in a landfill.

Some of it has been purchased from the contractor on the job by self-proclaimed ''pickers'' Susan Shoemaker and Joe Valle, owners of Susan's Antiques in the Centre Market area of the city. Shoemaker, who has operated the shop for the past four years, said she and her husband also are in the salvage business, purchasing items from demolition sites, including in the downtown, East Wheeling and other areas of the city. Many items are reused in their own home, located above their shop, or sold to others in need.

On Monday, passersby may have noticed the couple hauling tables, doors, wood paneling and other random items from the Graham building, one of the 1100 block buildings being razed on Main and Market streets by Dore and Associates of Bay City, Mich.

Article Photos

Photo by Shelley Hanson
Joe Valle hoses off a table he and his wife Susan Shoemaker, owner of Susan’s Antiques in Center Wheeling, purchased from the 1100 block demolition site in the downtown.

The city of Wheeling purchased several buildings in the block to make way for future development and paid Dore $693,600 to raze and clear the area of resulting debris.

Shoemaker believes the Graham building once served as a dress shop. Windows on the upper floors have faint writing that notes "dresses, suits and coats" were sold there. The two 10-foot long tables, she guessed, may have been used to display items. And a large wheeled cart made of metal and wood ribs was found in the basement and may have been used for laundry.

"I'd say it hasn't seen the light of day for 100 years," Valle said of the cart.

Shoemaker lived in Wheeling until she was 5 years old when she moved to California. While in California she worked for an antiques dealer for 15 years. She moved back to Wheeling to be closer to her mother and to open the shop - something she had always wanted to do.

"I wish more people would call us before they start tearing stuff down. We're into preserving as much as we can," she said. "I always loved it - I'm an old soul."

Public Works Director Russell Jebbia said once the contractor signed the demolition agreement, it was up to him to make sure the site was razed and cleared. He said it is not uncommon for demolition contractors to sell architectural items and other materials left behind in a building being razed.

Companies often know people who are looking to purchase things, such as mantels, staircases or woodwork.

"It's basically his stuff. ... It's their responsibility to take and remove it. If they want to sell items, it's up to them," Jebbia said of Dore.

Susan Hogan, a member of Wheeling OnTrac, said the group's design committee was given some ornamental pieces of metal from the building's red facade. The city, she noted, helped remove the pieces that may be used for future artistic spaces, such as a pocket park.

Valle said the building was very dirty and the floors on the second and third stories were rotting away because of rain coming through the roof.

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