A Halo on the Circular Economy

posted on Feb. 13, 2019, at 9:00 a.m.

NKBA Staff

Renovation Angel focuses on luxury recycling — and much more. By Dianne M. Pogoda

“I’m a recycled person,” says Steve Feldman.

So it seems fitting that Feldman would start a non-profit focused on recycling — but one that has grown to so much more.

His venture, Renovation Angel, began in 2005 selling pre-owned luxury kitchens on eBay. In 13 years, it has become a model for sustainability, reducing waste and creating recycling jobs.

The non-profit operates a 43,000 square-foot Luxury Outlet showroom in Fairfield, N.J., Renovation Angel stocks three types of inventory: “First, we have donated kitchens, bath, and furniture,” Feldman explains. “Second, we sell showroom displays or units from incorrect kitchen orders. And third, we take excess inventory from manufacturers and distributors. The lighting industry, for example, typically throws out its displays. We take them on donation and resell them.”

Feldman started his career as a radio DJ, working with the syndicated “Imus in the Morning” show. He was in the radio business for 18 years.

After successfully overcoming addiction and depression at the age of 30, in 2001, Steve shifted his focus to recycling. The inspiration came after witnessing the demolition of a 10,000 square-foot Rockefeller Mansion in Greenwich, Conn., owned by the Queen of Iran.

In 2005, he created Renovation Angel. In the first year, the charity raised $180,000 in recycled kitchen sales. He joined NKBA in 2006, and by 2017, generated $6.4 million in sales with 37 full-time employees and over $2.2 million in payroll — “…that’s 34% in wages,” he says. “We are 97.7% efficient as a charity. The Luxury Outlet showroom and donation program operates under the Renovation Angel name.

Feldman notes the NKBA was a significant factor in fueling the expansion of Renovation Angel.

“We are an NKBA baby,” he says. “We were the KBIS charity in 2006, 2007 and 2008, and took displays — three tractor-trailer loads — off the floor. These are full displays of kitchen cabinets that otherwise would have ended up as trash in landfills. We started opening stores in 2006. Our involvement with NKBA has been critical to our growth. This is an opportunity for kitchen designers to give something positive to their clients, and use it as a sales tool.

“Renovation Angel works with designers, who market our donation program to their clients. It’s a win-win”, he says.

“We reclaim and remove kitchens from homes undergoing renovation. The homeowner who’s donating the kitchen gets a tax deduction — the amount is determined by a third-party appraiser —  they save on the demolition costs; with free white-glove removal. The kitchen comes out cleanly and carefully. We work with many NKBA designers who do kitchen projects of at least $100,000 or more.

High-net-worth homeowners are disposing of outdated kitchens that aren’t dysfunctional, or someone moves into a multi-million-dollar home and wants a new style in the kitchen. And, often the designers build the donation savings into their proposal.”

Renovation Angel began selling surplus and discontinued stock in 2007.

“We sell appliances, lighting, furniture, tile, kitchen and bath hardware, faucets, etc.,” Feldman notes. “We sell to a lot of house-flippers, rental property, and hotel owners.

Asked if the industry feels threatened by his recycling, he explains that this process benefits manufacturers, which will sell more — and more expensive — new items. “If homeowners are saving a lot of money on the renovation, they can buy better appliances. Shoppers may buy a donated kitchen, and then a surplus range, for instance, or invest more in other parts of the project.

“This is a circular economy,” he points out. “There are some people who just won’t buy new — whether it’s a luxury car or a luxury kitchen. They are luxury bargain hunters. But the message is getting out to socially responsible consumers as well.”

It’s also a way to expose an aspiring consumer to products they might otherwise never be able to afford. “It’s the same principle as buying a pre-owned luxury car that you’d never be able to afford new.”

A transitional custom kitchen recycled from luxury Manhattan townhouse by Renovation Angel in 2018. Included is La Cornue range, custom hood, Sub-Zero refrigerator, countertops, sinks, and faucets. Photo by Steve Feldman

He runs the business with his wife, Lisa Feldman, who is vice president and manages the crews, designed the job flow software, handles operations management, and is leading the charge to move to an e-commerce platform.

All the shopping is done in person, over the phone, or online from their Fairfield, N.J., Luxury Outlet. They ship anywhere in the country. The prices of kitchens at RA vary from a few thousand to up to $80,000 — but that might be for what was originally a $250,000 kitchen. Sometimes they include top-of-the-line appliances while in other instances the package includes cabinetry and countertops only.

In the past 13 years, Feldman estimates that Renovation Angel has recycled and sold over 6,000 kitchens. His sales goal for 2019 is between $7.5 million and $8 million.

Renovation Angel supports organizations helping at-risk youth and poverty relief. RA has sponsored the fundraiser for the Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch, a Riverhead, N.Y.-based safe-haven helping troubled young people transitioning out of foster homes through residential programs and retreat centers. RA was named Timothy Hill’s “Philanthropist of the Year,” in 2018.

At KBIS 2019, Feldman will participate in a sustainability panel on Feb. 19 at the KBIS NeXT Stage. NKBA and Renovation Angel will introduce the “Luxury Recycler” awards, which will come into full swing at KBIS 2020. Some “early adapter” honors will be given to kitchen designers and manufacturers who have been recycling with Renovation Angel for years.

“We are recycling kitchens, protecting the Earth, creating recycling jobs…the message is growing stronger, and reaching socially responsible consumers. It’s a great way for the kitchen industry to align itself with sustainability.”

Want more industry news? Sign up for our NKBA newsletter!

Recent Posts

More from The NKBA