New Maquoketa business focuses on finding new uses for materials

MAQUOKETA, Iowa — A business that specializes in finding new uses for castoff materials from corporate industries will open a location in Maquoketa.

Repurposed Materials, a Denver-based company, will fill one of the two buildings vacated by Hollander Sleep Products when it closed its Maquoketa facilities in April. Repurposed Materials also has locations in South Carolina and Texas.

Founder and President Damon Carson described his business as an “industrial thrift store,” purchasing surplus or worn-out materials from one industry and selling them to another. He sees it as an offshoot of the “reuse” aspect in the familiar “reduce, reuse, recycle” refrain.

“Recycling is shred, chip, grind, melt … making something different,” he said. “We sell the stuff just as it is.”

For example, worn-down brushes from street sweepers can be sold to zoos and farms, where they are used as back scratchers for livestock. Conveyor belts grown thin can become a windbreak for cattle ranchers or a covering for high school tracks so that football players don’t damage the track’s surface with their cleats.

“It’s obsolete to the primary industry … but there’s all kinds of other industries that will take that used (object) and do something with it,” Carson said.

He advised that the company was looking to purchase a property in the upper Midwest since the lease was almost up on its yard in Kankakee, Ill. This summer, he received an email from Chris Meinecke, a Maquoketa resident who subscribes to Repurposed Materials’ e-newsletter, letting him know about the available Hollander building.

Hollander Sleep Products, a bedding product manufacturer, announced in April that it was closing its two Maquoketa sites, eliminating about 125 jobs, due to a business downturn related to the pandemic.

Mike Macri, vice president at commercial real estate services company CBRE, worked with Hollander to market the buildings.

Originally, both were listed for sublease, he said, but when Carson expressed an interest in owning the 1725 E. Maple St. location, they were able to arrange a sale. Online county property records show the 11-acre property was purchased for $350,000. Its 2020 assessed value was $560,600.

The second former Hollander building remains available for sublease.

“It’s great to see new business investing in the community— moving in, bringing new jobs, just new perspectives and opportunities,” Macri said. “It’s nice to have (the building) so quickly refilled and bringing in new jobs within the same year.”

While Carson noted that his business will not employ nearly as many people as Hollander, the arrival of Repurposed Materials is still an economic boost for Maquoketa.

“We’re not employee-heavy or manpower-intensive,” he said. “It will bring a few jobs, not many (compared to) what was previously in the building … but it does put an empty building back into productive usage, and two jobs is better than no jobs.”

Carson hopes to have the Maquoketa location open by March or April. The 40,000-square-foot building will be a distribution center but also will be open to walk-in business, allowing customers to browse through materials from old fire hoses to bowling alley wood.

“We’re on the cutting edge of sustainability, (and) Maquoketa will become one of our four branches,” Carson said. “It may be making it sound a little too sexy, but Maquoketa will be an epicenter of the sustainability movement, trying to keep this obsolete stuff out of the scrap metal heaps across the upper Midwest.”