Portland Architectural Salvage was founded in 1994 by Alice Dunn.
Born in the 60’s in Scarsdale, NY (one of seven children), boarded at school in Maine in the 70’s, and with a 50+ year history that reads like a “J.D. Salinger meets David Sedaris (with a little Jack Kerouac thrown in for good measure)” novel, Alice is almost as fascinating as the breadth of merchandise in her store. Almost.
In the 80’s, Alice did food prep for the former, beloved Portland Wine & Cheese shop AND Alberta’s restaurant, owned a jewelry and watch store on Market Street in the Old Port, started her own marketing company (think lead creation) where she met her client, the President of Beltone (the national hearing aid brand), who decided she was destined to sell hearing aids….and some two odd years later was declared “Hearing Specialist of the Year” and flown to San Francisco to attend the awards ceremony (where she was promptly recruited by Beltone’s San Fran office). Alice eventually tired of the rigors of door-to-door sales, but decided to remain in the city she had grown to adore and opened a motorcycle shop, Mission Cycle. She lived above the shop in an industrial loft and had a ball selling bikes and eating tacos (it was located in The Mission, after all). But Maine was never far from her heart and eventually called her back, along with a dog (her dearly departed miniature poodle, Pokey) whom she ‘liberated’ from a circus in Denver, and a Ducati.
Back in Maine in the 90’s, she bought and sold cars at Top Shelf Auto, which she co-owned with a pal, and scraped and saved to buy her very first home on Spring Street in Portland’s West End. The home whet her appetite for real estate and she subsequently bought, restored, and sold many properties. It was in the restoration phase of these projects (specifically, the restoration of a 1760’s ‘center-chimney’ residence on Crescent Lake in Casco) that she realized there was a profound shortage of vintage materials…and the ‘seed’ of an idea that would eventually become Portland Architectural Salvage was sown.
Alice began to scour Uncle Henry’s for ‘house parts’ and local transfer stations for ‘cast-off’s,’ and stored her ‘treasures’ in a warehouse on Presumpscot Street. Her treasure trove grew and, at the urging of friends (and Portland Landmarks), she hung her shingle on Washington Avenue in late 1993. Several years later, she moved to larger quarters (a whopping 350 square feet!) at 253 Congress Street at the base of Munjoy Hill…and several years after THAT, having outgrown her wee shop, moved the bustling operation to 919 Congress Street (the current site of Salvage BBQ). They were busy, exciting years, indeed!
In 2004, Alice learned that the Portland Mattress Factory was for sale. Needless-to-say, she was more than a little intrigued. Located in Bayside, a fairly transitional neighborhood at that time, Alice saw the potential in the 20,000 sq. ft. hulking structure….and bought it, renovated it, installed an elevator, and moved her business there in the summer of 2005….where it still stands today at 131 Preble Street.
With Alice’s hard work, tenacity, talent and savvy, Portland Architectural Salvage has evolved from a small-scale salvage shop to a large-scale salvage and antiques and art and BEYOND extravaganza. She invites you to peruse the four floors of merchandise that run the gamut from plumbing to hardware to lighting to flooring to industrial décor to windows and doors and oh so much more!
All of Alice’s great stuff comes from (and is purchased by!) people from all walks of life – and should you have items you might be interested in selling or, perhaps, an old home that contains the kind of cool house parts that our customers crave, please be in touch.