Meet Caleb and Ross, the cousins behind Brew City Salvage and two of the nicest and coolest guys you'll ever meet. I wanted to kick off My Midwest Is Showing with them, because when I moved back to Wisconsin, Brew City Salvage was the first place that got me really excited to be back in the Midwest. Their mid-century modern furniture and décor shop is stocked full of some of the most interesting and unique pieces I've ever seen. When I first discovered their store, it was still located in Waukesha, Wisconsin about five minutes from my then empty house. Needless to say, I spent many of my first Wisconsin weekends in their shop and am the proud owner of eleven pieces from BCS.
With a lot of hard work and dedication, Caleb and Ross have recently re-opened Brew City Salvage in the Walker's Point neighborhood of Milwaukee. Take one step inside, and you will become obsessed with their design style and curation. On top of that, the two guys are really passionate entrepreneurs whose love for their work is truly felt in every nook and cranny of their store.
Find out more about Caleb, Ross, and Brew City Salvage in my Q&A with them below!
My Midwest Is Showing: What's the history of Brew City Salvage?
Caleb Nickel: I started the company probably 4-5 years ago officially, but I've been buying and selling things for quite a while. I started it as a way to make extra money to pay the bills, and eventually it turned into me quitting my job and doing it full time. I can't work for other people; it's not in my DNA. I can get up before the sun and work through the night working for myself, but I can't stand dragging myself out of bed every morning to make money for someone else.
Ross Severson: I joined my cousin a few years back. We started in a storage garage building tables and doing flea markets and eventually grew into a warehouse space and then a storefront. The business has grown organically over the last few years, and the store in Milwaukee was just the next step in the evolution.
MMWIS: What's a normal day like for you?
CN: Wake up, make breakfast, cuddle my dog while I search Craigslist. Then I get up and make the rounds to thrift stores, and eventually find my way into the shop where I work on projects and get the store ready for the weekend.
RS: Most days I spend hunting for furniture through various sources or refinishing pieces I've already found.
MMWIS: How did you learn to do everything you do at BCS?
CN: My mom dragged me to thrift stores and garage sales my whole life, so I think that was natural. From there on, it was just trial and error – figuring out what works and what doesn't.
RS: Mostly trial and error or through advice from other restoration workers. We've made a lot of friends in the mid-century community that have helped us along the way.
MMWIS: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?
CN: DO IT!
RS: Do your research, and take the plunge.
MMWIS: Best/favorite thing you've ever salvaged?
CN: Every day I find the best thing I've ever found, haha.
RS: I stumbled on an estate sale a few years ago. A couple who had no children and great taste in design was selling off everything. It was all in mint condition and I ended up keeping a lot of the pieces for my own personal collection.
MMWIS: Greatest business accomplishment so far?
CN: I think moving into our new shop in Walker's Point has been a huge achievement for us. It was a big step, but I'm so glad we did it. We've only been open for about a month now, and we have had such a positive response from everyone in the community.
RS: Moving to the new shop in Milwaukee is a dream come true. Being in Walker's Point and seeing the neighborhood become so great and rich with new businesses is inspirational.
MMWIS: Favorite thing about the Midwest?
CN: It feels like everyone somehow knows everyone. Or knows someone who knows someone. Also, there are so many small businesses popping up, and I love that.
RS: The food. Cheese and more cheese.
MMWIS: How does your Midwest show through your personality and/or what you do?
CN: It probably shows through in my accent (I think I have one?). And I hope it shows through my attitude towards other people. I was raised to treat people with respect, and I feel like that's a common thing in the Midwest. So hopefully I'm living up to it!
RS: The mustache.