Eco Relics founders and owners Annie and Michael Murphy had three days worth of picking in The Jacksonville Landing, but the memorabilia salvaged from the shuttered Downtown shopping mall, headed for demolition, already are best-sellers at their Rail Yard District warehouse.
A door marked “River Room Music and Banquet” from second-floor bar Deep Blue sold and is headed with a buyer to Georgia.
As soon as the Murphys heard the city would demolish the riverfront shopping center and hired a wrecking contractor, Annie 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 founded the Eco Relics architectural salvage business in March 2014.
At their 50,000-square-foot former railroad freight depot at 106 Stockton St., the Murphys reclaim wood and keep old doors, light fixtures, cabinets, tools and memorabilia from the landfill.
Eco Relics now is taking its picking skills to the 32-year-old Landing, the fenced-off riverfront shopping center at 2 Independent Drive W.
In August, the Murphys connected with D.H. Griffin Wrecking Co., the Plant City company awarded the Landing demolition contract by the city. Eco Relics was named a subcontractor and its salvage crew made the first walk-through.
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. That has not yet sold.
“You’re not trying to tear it out, you’re trying to salvage it. You have to disassemble it,” Cooper said.
“You want it nice and neat and intact so it can be reused,” Annie Murphy said. “Obviously, breakage for us is expensive. It costs money.”
From Aug. 26-28, Eco Relics salvaged dozens of pieces at the Landing.
From Mavericks nightclub, the crew saved pecky cypress wood paneling. From the mall offices, it salvaged memorabilia that includes the original Landing blueprints and stacks of newspapers with mentions of the Landing from the late 1980s to the present.
According to the Murphys, the most sought-after item has been claimed by the city — the letters of “The Jacksonville Landing” sign facing the St. Johns River. According to the city, no pieces of the logo sign will be going on the market.
City Director of Public Affairs Nikki Kimbleton said in a Sept. 6 email the letters will remain in the city’s possession.
“The Landing sign letters will be dismantled and securely packaged by the contractor (D.H. Griffin),” Kimbleton wrote. “The contractor will deliver the material to a city facility for storage until future plans are determined.”
The city also wants the indoor light posts and many of the logos left by the businesses.
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 Aug. 29 as Hurricane Dorian approached the Northeast Florida coast, but the Murphys expect the job to take about 21 days when Eco Relics gets notification from D.H. Griffin to resume salvage.
As work stalled, 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 saved light fixtures and plans to salvage “a lot of doors.”
Annie Murphy said they also hope to salvage the Landing’s exterior doors and windows, but because of safety, D.H. Griffin is required to keep those intact until exterior demolition begins.
When the Murphys return, they plan to remove all the exterior garage-style patio doors from Mavericks nightclub and Fionn MacCool’s Irish Pub and Restaurant’s former Landing locations.
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 and some items are off-limits to the Relics pickers.
Another item that won’t be salvaged is signage from the former Chicago Pizza, site of the Aug. 26, 2018, mass shooting that killed two and injured nine during a video game tournament.
“The demolition company didn’t want to give it to someone who would glorify the shooting,” Michael Murphy said.
The Murphys did pull out and sell a video game graphic — a painted canvas mural of the winking, thumbs up Vault Boy from the Fallout series.
Eco Relics will pay 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.
As far as safety, D.H. Griffin has the strictest standards they’ve ever worked under, Michael Murphy said.
“We had to do quite a bit upping our workmen’s compensation (insurance) to get in there. They’re (D.H. Griffin) very strict. They’re very safety conscious. You know, hard hats, yellow vests. My guys already wear steel-toe boots, but it’s a very different atmosphere than going into someone’s house and ripping out stuff,” Anne Murphy added.
Deconstruction at the Jacksonville Landing is by far Eco Relics’ largest job.
“It should be a cool job for us, so it’s really testing our skills,” she said.