It’s official, I am adding a new show to my must watch list. It all started with American Pickers, Duck Dynasty and The Walking Dead and now I add Salvage Dawgs to the list. The show chronicles the adventures of Robert Kulp and Mike Whiteside, owners of Southwestern Virginia-based Black Dog Salvage. Each episode leaves audiences laughing, inspired, and amazed as they stay just ahead of the wrecking ball to reclaim a wide range of vintage architectural elements and oddities. The salvaged materials go in a dazzling number of directions, from being incorporated into new “old” houses to being transformed into one-of-a-kind furniture and art featured on their warehouse floor and website.
Starting a salvage business was not intentional. Mike needed a garage built; Robert came to give him advice. The garage was never built, but the two found kindred souls in each other, having both served in the Navy. After lamenting the pending demolition of a local 1892 landmark filled with architectural details, they took a chance, made a salvage offer and began saving the house piece by piece. In a warehouse Mike had rented for another project, with Mike’s 1s (Molly) , they turned over an old vinyl sign – wrote ‘SALVAGE’ – and moments later a customer pulled into the parking lot.
They haven’t looked back since. Three years later they outgrew the building and purchased a 40,000 square warehouse next to the Memorial Bridge near Grandin Village in Roanoke, VA. Over the last decade, the business has evolved from a down and dirty salvage warehouse to an interior design showroom featuring architectural details, custom designs, local artists and vendors. Mike brings his creative eye to the Black Dog Design Shop, fabricating one of kind custom pieces and Robert offers astute business acumen, sound construction advice and long range vision. This coupled with the support of (understanding) families and a strong belief in supporting locally owned businesses, has been a recipe for success.
“We are saving America, one house part at a time,” said owner Robert Kulp. “It’s satisfying to know that these architectural treasures will live on and be appreciated across the country.”
In the premiere episode of Salvage Dawgs, the Black Dog crew salvaged the Izard House, a 14-room farmhouse built in the 1890s that was said to have served as a schoolhouse and post office; the center of a long lost farming community in the mountains of Southwest Virginia.
Throughout the series, Kulp strives to run a tight ship with his eye on the bottom line — while spirited Whiteside wreaks havoc, tearing through old homes and buildings – finding treasure in the most unexpected places and making things happen – even under the most challenging circumstances.
“Architectural salvage is not just about sledgehammers – sometimes it’s about surgical precision,” says Kulp. Whiteside adds, “I’ll stick with the big hammer.”
Both Mike & Robert demonstrate a natural talent for horse trading, an exuberant love of history and a creative vision for turning old relics into treasure.
“When it comes to tearing things apart to find treasures and selling them to make a profit, Mike and Robert have experienced it all,” says Trailblazer Studios’ VP of Original Programming, Jeff Lanter. “From extracting architectural elements out of private homes and classic historical properties to disassembling old hospitals and crumbling mills, every day is a challenge and an opportunity. That’s the stuff that makes great television.”
Mike Whiteside, Co-Owner of Black Dog Salvage Famous for saying, “go big, go hard, go fast, or go home” Mike Whiteside, the resident optimist of Black Dog Salvage, has yet to meet an impossible task – but knows his limits. As a former Navy parachute rigger, he traveled the world serving our country. Mike’s love of travel and the sea led him to a 15-year career as a professional sailor and yacht captain. Some of his other offbeat jobs include ski lift operator and chair seat weaver. His skill set today involves custom fabrication, ad hoc artistry, and creative salvaging. He may have seen a lot, but is always looking for a way to see it all over again. Easily mistaken for a “bull in a china shop,” he enthusiastically barrels headfirst into each job, leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of all things salvageable. Always looking for a deal, you’ll find Mike calling the shots on the front lines of Black Dog bartering. An architectural visionary, Mike loves to tackle design challenges and help customers create their own unique treasures. On a rare day off, you can find him with a line in the water or riding his Harley through the Virginia countryside looking for the next salvage conquest.
Robert Kulp, Co-Owner of Black Dog Salvage
With a keen eye for historical value and a constant focus on the bottom line, Robert Kulp is the resident architecturologist of Black Dog Salvage. A builder, salvager, Roanoke native and proud Virginia Tech Hokie, this former Naval Officer knows how to run a tight ship. In the office or in the field – Robert is all about “attention to detail” – a source of both great pain and entertainment for the rest of the Back Dog Crew. With a degree in Building Construction from Virginia Tech – Robert has a passion for good architectural details and a great understanding of the value of reclaimed building parts. As a Class A General Contractor, he offers solid advice and services for period restorations, “new” old houses, and “sympathetic” additions. In his spare time, you can find him cheering on the Hokies, kite boarding, or navigating behind the wheel of the “Damn Skippy” (Black Dog’s vintage cabin cruiser).
With a subtle sense of humor he inherited from his dad, Tay Whiteside is an important voice on the Salvage Dawgs team. Working alongside his dad, Mike, at an early age, Tay learned the art of creative problem solving, the skills of a craftsman and the tricks of the trade. Tay has been a critical part of the Black Dog Salvage crew since he was eye-to-eye with the Black Dog and is credited with teaching Christa how to drive a forklift when he was only 11. Currently studying Engineering at Virginia Western Community College, the apple did not fall far from the tree. Tay is a jack-of-all-trades and willing to attack any challenge with a jovial and creative approach! In his downtime, you’ll find him working with his friends on cars, spinning records and enjoying the great outdoors.
A professional Roanoke City Firefighter since 1999, Mike works as a part-time welder and salvager for Black Dog Salvage during his down time. His EMS training, ladder expertise and Eagle Scout skills have served the team well on more than one occasion! Aside from keeping the Roanoke community and Salvage Dawgs safe, Mike enjoys a passion for the ancient art of blacksmithing. A member of the Old Dominion Blacksmith Association and the Artists Blacksmith Association of North America, he also currently serves as the Master of Lakeland Masonic Lodge. With a degree in Horticulture he shares his love of the outdoors with his wife and two girls in his spare time.
Ted provides comic relief and an occasional toe-tapping tune to the Black Dog Salvage crew. Before becoming a Salvage Dawg, Ted spent his early days touring with his popular alternative rock band: Not Even (there’s “even” the rumor of a reunion tour…stay tuned!) Settling down to raise a family, Ted moved back to his hometown of Roanoke to join his father in the insurance business. After 15 years, he was ready for a break from his desk job and switched gears by joining good friend, Mike at Black Dog Salvage for a chance to work with his hands and get a little dirty. On his days off you’ll find him fishing, canoeing, hanging by the fire pit with the fellows, camping, cooking, playing guitar, welding, gardening, helping neighbors and strangers alike….all with his signature smile.
A cornerstone of the Black Dog Salvage family, Courtney offers an artist’s inspiration for renewing and repurposing reclaimed materials. Whether it’s turning broken, dismantled chairs into a bench or a claw foot tub into a couch, there’s always a touch of color and whimsy if Courtney is involved. With a degree in Art Education from the University of Virginia, Courtney currently teaches Annie Sloan Chalk Paint ™ workshops at Black Dog Salvage for the budding artist or do-it-yourselfer. Her Black Dog Salvage booth, The Dot Spot, features an array of original art speckled with the most ordinary – and unusual — found objects. Courtney recently returned from a painting trip in Italy which is sure to inspire new creations around the shop!
Robert’s big sister, Koiner, has been a member of the Black Dog Salvage family since the early days on Franklin Road. A UVa grad and former first grade teacher, this self-proclaimed “head cleaner upper” and “rearranger” has transformed the warehouse into a spectacular and successful interior design marketplace offering a wide range of furniture, home and garden accessories and regional artwork. Koiner’s keen eye for color and love for arranging (and rearranging) keeps the Marketplace constantly updated and fresh. When not busy managing the Marketplace, Koiner can be found at her happy place, the family’s creekside cabin…rearranging and updating with Black Dog finds, of course.
No matter how beautiful, clever and historically significant the Salvage Dawg finds and Black Dog creations may be – it would only be a storage warehouse without the loyal and excited Black Dog Salvage customer. With deep understanding of the architectural salvage business and strong ties to the community, Christa knows how to build the bridge between the Black Dog pieces and the treasure seeker. Responsible for marketing efforts, online sales, and connecting with customers far and wide, she is constantly sharing photos, stories, tips and merchandise on Black Dog Salvage’s Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest , Email Newsletters and Ebay Store. She is proud to serve on the board of the Roanoke Valley SPCA and works closely with the Grandin Village Business Association. Her happy place is sitting fireside at Bald Mountain Camps in Oquossoc, Maine, (MY home state) and spending time with her husband, two sweet dogs and active toddler, Henry (pictured here).
Check your local cable or satellite provider for times and channels. Our only complaint with the show is that it is only 1/2 hour long! Thursday nights just got a little better around here. We can’t WAIT to see what they uncover next! (BTW, we were serious…make the episodes an hour long!)