Harry, Paul, Robin, Conor Maharaj
Kilkenny Architectural Salvage & Antiques was founded in 1998 by Robin Maharaj when he moved back home to Kilkenny after living abroad working in financial services. Robin decided to set up a business where he grew up on the outskirts of Kilkenny city on the Bleach Road. The 100-year-old Woollen Mill site gave life to a business that involved a long-standing passion of his in the world of salvage. A bug he caught while living in London when he bought a derelict property and spent several years renovating it and bringing it back to its original glory.The business specialises in architectural salvage, sourcing antiques and artefacts in Ireland, the US, Europe and Asia, which are sold to builders, architects and designers, as well as to homeowners and garden enthusiasts.
Robin's three sons - Paul, Harry and Conor have all joined the family business in the last three years. Like their father, their previous careers were worlds apart from salvage (Travel, Finance, and Insurance), but they knew someday they would all return to the family business.
The three Maharaj brothers have brought new ways of thinking to what would be seen as a very traditional retail business. Examples include being the first salvage yard in Ireland to allow you buy direct from a website, having a large social media following through daily posts and working hard to show the next generation the advantages of buying salvaged items versus just going to IKEA. They also have gained an overwhelming following of over 30,000 on Instagram, which is a great way to bring the world of salvage to a trendy social platform in a world of influencers and creators.
Here is a glimpse of the family business, a place where you can find everything and buy anything…
Hi Harry, Maharaj is not really a common Kilkenny name?
Definitely not, Maharaj is an Indian name originally. My granddad was born in South Africa and moved to Dublin to study medicine in the Royal College of Surgeons. He met an Irish lady from Dublin and married her - my Grandmother May.
My granddad was also an Orthopaedic Surgeon and moved down to Kilkenny in the early seventies. He became one of the main names in Kilkenny’s County Hospital and Kilcreene. We get a lot of people coming into the salvage yard and if they are in their sixties, seventies, or eighties – they’ll know who we are because they knew my granddad! He was Harry Maharaj and I was named after him.
So, when he moved to Kilkenny, he fell in love with the old Woollen Mills site on the Bleach Road.
Yes, he did because it reminded him of home - on a riverbank and surrounded by trees in South Africa. It’s a great site because it’s the old Woollen Mills, it’s also a protective site with the old mill chimney still standing there. We are very lucky to have the great Lady Desart’s Mill as it is perfectly made for our business.
How was the salvage yard started?
My father Robin started Kilkenny Salvage by originally building up stock from attending auctions, dealing with other salvage yards, and buying from everyday people who had items to sell. Since its formation in 1988, the business has evolved and while we still buy from those original sources that allowed us to grow, we now have an extensive network of people and businesses who we deal with.
We work very closely with some of the top hotels, restaurants, and bars around Ireland. We also import items from the UK, Europe and even further afield.How has it evolved to be one of the biggest salvage yards in Ireland?
Obviously, there is always competition no matter what business you go into, but we feel we stand out from the rest for several reasons. First, product knowledge is what we make sure we are always at the cutting edge of. From dealing with new ways of laying our flooring, to complicated structural features with using our beams or even knowing the history of some of the rare antiques we have. This is always the fundamental starting point for us.
Along with this we are always looking for new and exciting items to bring to the yard. We don’t think about the short term when we buy stock. We are happy to buy an item and let it sit in the yard for several years if we feel it’s the right piece. There will always be someone who will want it, but they just might not be in to visit us tomorrow. If it’s a good item, we will buy it, and this ensures we keep a wide selection of items in stock at all times.
Why is salvage such big business these days?
We play into the way the world has gone with a focus on sustainability, recycling, re-using. It offers people the opportunity to buy pieces worth thousands for a fraction of the price when they look at salvaged versus new. We can supply a huge range of items - flooring, timber beams, building materials, garden furniture, antiques, pub memorabilia - stock is changing every day.
Salvage yards are just a fun place to walk around and in a covid world people have felt very safe doing this due to the large space we have. Whereas some salvage yards struggle on the indoor space and warehouses are crammed with stock, we have both ample indoor and outdoor areas to ramble around on a ten-acre site.
Visiting a salvage yard is meant to be adventurous and most importantly it’s our job to make sure people go home feeling like they have bought a quality product, at a great price from an experienced team. We have been in business for over twenty years now, but our enthusiasm hasn’t wavered one bit as we are always excited to see what items we will be buying or selling tomorrow.As a former stockbroker, what do you enjoy more in the salvage yard - the buying or the selling?
That’s the beauty of the business, we never know what we will buy or sell each day. We can talk about selling all day long, but the real clincher is buying for me. Buying really adds value to our business, if we are buying at a good price, it means we can sell at a good price and make some money in between.
What separates us from a lot of other salvage yards is who we are buying from. We don’t have to think about every inch of our floor space like a shop would on the High Street. When we go to buy, we can buy everything because we have the space to display it. We’ve walked into derelict hotels and bought everything they have, except for the beds! We are very much in the volume business and that is how we can pass value onto customers. The Yard has become somewhat of a tourist attraction in Kilkenny of late.
We always get asked who visits a salvage yard. The honest answer is absolutely everyone and through the reach of social media, this reach has expanded massively.
On the same day we will have someone visiting us who is renovating their home, from a hotel owner to a high-end interior designer, to an architect working on a project and yes even tourists! These days we get a lot of people saying that they have come to Kilkenny to specifically see the Salvage Yard, whoever would have thought that! It's great to hear it too because we know that we are doing something right.
Kilkenny Architectural Salvage and Antiques Ltd, The Old Woollen Mills, Bleach Road, Kilkenny. Open Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm, Saturday 10am to 4pm and closed on Sundays.
Website: Kilkenny Architectural Salvage & Antiques
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