When Eco Relics founders and owners Annie and Michael Murphy heard the city would demolish The Jacksonville Landing, Annie immediately picked up the phone.
“I made a lot of phone calls. It turns out the demolition company heard about us from one of our customers. They said we are 'a cool company,'” she said.
The Murphys have co-owned and operated the architectural salvage business Eco Relics since March 2014.
From their 50,000-square-foot former railroad freight depot at 106 Stockton St. in Jacksonville's Rail Yard District, the Murphys reclaim wood and save old doors, light fixtures, cabinets, tools and memorabilia and keep it from the landfill.
Eco Relics now is taking its picking skills to the 32-year-old Landing.
Three weeks ago, the Murphys connected with D.H. Griffin Wrecking Co., the Plant City company awarded the Landing demolition contract by the city.
The Eco Relics crew soon made the first walk-through of the shuttered riverfront shopping mall at 1 Independent Drive Downtown.
With Eco Relics manager John Cooper leading the salvage team, one item it claimed immediately was the 18-foot-long, wood bar top with a beach scene from Hooters restaurant. Cooper said the removal was a six-hour job.
“You’re not trying to tear it out, you’re trying to salvage it. You have to disassemble it,” Cooper said.
Annie Murphy added, “You want it nice and neat and intact so it can be reused.”
Over three days, Eco Relics salvaged dozens of pieces at the Landing.
From Maverick's nightclub, the crew saved pecky cypress wood paneling; from the mall offices, memorabilia that includes the original Landing blueprints and stacks of newspapers with mentions of the Landing from the late 1980s to the present.
The city officially took control of the shopping center in May after the City Council approved a $15 million settlement with former owner Sleiman Enterprises Inc. in February.
One business remains operating — BBVA bank.
The city asked D.H. Griffin to demolish the Landing in phases to ensure the bank can continue normal operations until it vacates by Oct. 28.
The Eco Relics team began removing items from the structure Aug. 26. Michael Murphy said the deconstruction will follow the phases, beginning in the southwest building and working north.
Deconstruction paused with the approach of Hurricane Dorian, but the Murphys expect the job to take about 21 days when they resume.
On Aug. 29, Eco Relics announced the Landing project on social media. Michael Murphy said the Facebook post has reached nearly 50,000 people with 25,000 engaged.
The Murphys posted images of the Eco Relics team extracting the Hooters bar and the teased their first few finds.
“It's astronomical,” Michael Murphy said. “It surpassed any post we’ve done by a huge margin.”
The interest generated through the social media announcement attracted requests from customers and the public.
The ceiling fans in the main crescent-shaped Landing building have been a popular request, Annie Murphy said. Eco Relics also has saved light fixtures and “a lot of doors.”
Annie Murphy said they also hope to salvage the Landing's exterior doors and windows, but due to safety, D.H. Griffin is required to keep those intact until exterior demolition begins.
D.H. Griffin officials get the first look at any item in the Landing, Michael Murphy said.
The demolition company will recycle as much of the raw materials as possible, while some items are off-limits to the Relics pickers.
According to the Murphys, the most sought-after item already has been claimed by the city — the letters of the Jacksonville Landing sign facing the St. Johns River.
The city also wants the indoor light posts and many of the logos left by the businesses. Relics staff does not know the city's plans for the artifacts.
Another request was for signage from the former Chicago Pizza, site of the Aug. 26, 2018, mass shooting that killed two and injured nine others during a video game tournament. Michael Murphy said that item will not be salvaged.
“The demolition company didn’t want to give it to someone who would glorify the shooting,” Michael Murphy said.
Eco Relics will be charged by D.H. Griffin for what it saves - some items by weight and others by individual value.
He said that value is determined by D.H. Griffin.
Michael Murphy and Cooper said they are not sure of the final value of their salvage, but they estimate it could be worth “tens of thousands of dollars,” Cooper said.
The Landing is not a typical salvage for Eco Relics. The company traditionally focuses on smaller accounts, usually historic homes or residential sites with unusual items “worth saving,” Annie Murphy said.
One of the Murphys’ first projects was deconstructing the Ortega home of the Davis family, founders of Winn-Dixie Stores Inc.
Deconstruction at the Jacksonville Landing is by far the biggest job Eco Relics has taken on, they said.
“It should be a cool job for us, so it’s really testing our skills,” she said