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Kraig Bantle happily does a chore that most people dread; cleaning out the garage. His business Garage Brothers launched in 2007, removes junk out of storage at no cost to the owners. He then turns around, selling valuable items and recycling the scraps. One can only imagine what sort of items have been unearthed, from expensive artwork and collectibles to the strange like a bag of toenails. If you’re not already watching, you can follow Kraig’s excavations on his DIY Network television show, Garage Gold.
So successful is Garage Brothers as a business, that they’ve been able to service local charities with proceeds and supplies. Their warehouse serves as a drop-off recycle center for the public as well as their clients. They recycle electronics, scrap metal, food waste and even cigarette butts and the sort. We chatted with Kraig about how Garage Brothers began and his altruistic goals.
Hi Kraig! Tell us a bit about yourself and where you currently live.
I’m originally from Buffalo and moved down to Cary, North Carolina 16 years ago. I always worked in retail management and sold things on Ebay as a way to supplement my income until one I day I wondered how to get things for free instead of paying for them in order to resell them, and thus Garage Brothers was born.
How did you get the idea to clean garages for free?
As I said, I was always buying stuff to resell it until one day I asked the wonderful question, “How can I get stuff for free instead of buying it all the time?”.
Okay, time to dish. What’s the most valuable thing you’ve found in a garage?
We’ve found artwork worth a few thousand dollars. I’ve gotten a couple motorcycles and a van. I also found an envelope with five grand in it, but I gave that back. One of our rules is to always give back any money or ask a client if we can take something if we know it’s worth a good deal of money.
And what’s the funniest thing you’ve found in a garage?
Not to disclose any personal belongings, but I always tell people that I could write two books, one for adults and one for kids, with the crazy stuff that I’ve come across. :)
What’s one thing you have learned from cleaning other people’s garages?
That everyone seems to have Christmas stuff that they want to give away.
What is the most awesome thing in or about your neighborhood?
I love my neighborhood for several reasons; everyone is nice, it’s a very safe place to live, and I’m in walking distance of the mall and other places I go to on a regular basis.
What’s your favorite place you go locally to discover hidden treasures?
I honestly don’t ever go out and shop or go to other thrift stores, I enjoy finding treasures at the jobs we are doing.
What blogs or websites do you visit regularly?
Not really, just my own site: Free Garage Cleaning. I’m a pretty boring person; I read a lot of news online and mostly hockey websites and Buffalo Sabres boards. I’m a die hard Sabres fan and grew up with season tickets.
As a kid, were any of your toys and clothes hand-me-downs? Stories please!
I am one of five kids, so yes, much of my stuff was hand-me-downs. In fact, my mom actually had some families that she would swap clothes and toys with so we had different stuff to wear and play with.
That’s pretty cool. How often do you go to garage sales, flea markets and the sort nowadays?
I rarely go to flea markets and yard sales, I live it every day so I don’t spend much of my free time going to other ones.
Have you ever taken home an object you found in the street or dumpster? Any personal tips you’d like to share?
I always tell people that we are not a junk removal company, we are a recycling and charity company. We just happen to get our items by doing junk removal. We don’t do what we do to get cool merchandise, we do what we do to keep as much out of the landfills as possible and to try to get as much merchandise as possible into the hands of people that truly need it.
Not so much a tip as a request to each person to do whatever they can to help future generations by recycling. 87% of the items that go in our landfills are recyclable and we are passing a huge burden on to our children because it’s easier to stick something in the trash can. Also, to do whatever you can to help those in need, even if it’s something as small as giving some food to a homeless person. Everyone can contribute to make this world a better place.
Have you ever taken home an object you found in the street or dumpster?
I’ve taken a lot of stuff home from the streets and dumpsters, but it’s all been recycling. I go on recycling walks and pick up cigarette butts, bottles, candy wrappers, etc., all the things that we recycle and then bring them to the warehouse to be processed.
Are you a hoarder or a minimalist?
People would say by looking at my warehouse in years past that I’m a hoarder, but I’m not. I only hold on to things until we can get them into the right hands so that they don’t end up in the landfill. I have no problem getting rid of things, as long as they are going where they are supposed to.
What is your most cherished thrifted, secondhand, vintage, upcycled object you possess? What’s the story behind it?
My favorite thing I’ve found that I’ve kept is a doctor’s cabinet from 1904. My entire house is decorated with items I’ve found at jobs (I even got my house from a job that I did), but the doctor’s cabinet is just awesome to me. It amazes me that it ever made it to my house because I had it stored at the warehouse for years and so many people wanted to buy it. It’s only worth a few hundred bucks but it’s just an amazing looking piece and I want to restore it some day. Plus I collect old medicine bottles so they fit perfectly in there.
What are you working on these days?
I’m just trying to grow the business as much as possible. We are always finding new charities to work with, and new items that we are able to recycle. We’d like to get several more crews and trucks going, along with a thrift store, and then after that, other Garage Brothers locations around the country. And of course working on our tv show, that takes up a lot of time when we are filming. I don’t think people understand how long it actually takes us to film the 21 or 22 minutes that you get to see on tv.