There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t talk about leaving everything and running off to Bali to frolic through rice fields and eat fresh fish for every meal. ‘EYES + EDGE Bali’ would work, right? Everything about the place is gorgeous—the people, the art, the food, the beaches, the landscape and of course, the handcrafted wood furniture. Lucky for Portlanders, a little piece of Indonesia exists locally (right in the NW industrial district). Tropical Salvage reclaims old, quality hardwood in Indonesia to create pieces of solid furniture for homes, restaurants, bars, cafes and other local businesses. In doing so, they are able to support fair trade, conservation-supportive jobs in Indonesia and enable consumers to choose wood products whose availability does not depend on harvests of standing trees. We spoke with Director of Marketing, Lisa Peifer, about the company’s history.
E+E: We love the backstory on Tropical Salvage, but how did this venture begin?Lisa Peifer: While Tropical Salvage's owner, Tim O’Brien, was traveling the world, working in importing, he witnessed two things in Indonesia that really struck him. One, entire forests of very large, old trees were being chopped down at an alarming rate with no plans of replanting. And two, in cities, wood valuable to the marketplace, like teak, was being burned, just to get it out of the way. With an entrepreneur's mind and a globally conscious heart, the idea to make something out of unwanted wood was obvious. Through his connections and a slight twist of fate, Tim met his Indonesian business partner, although it took some convincing that it would be worth the trouble not to just cut down trees.
E+E: Both co-founders of E+E have been to Bali and talk about retiring there on a daily basis :), so naturally protecting that slice of paradise is huge for us. Can you tell us more about how Tropical Salvage continues to work on conservation strategies?LP: Of course, we educate our Indonesian employees on the importance of environmental preservation. We also assisted in founding a forest conservancy and have planted trees there. Currently, we're working to raise NGO funding to develop a trade school in Borneo so that folks whose choices of employment might only be illegal logging, mining, or in palm oil plantations can learn how to work with salvaged wood and build furniture for a living. Tropical Salvage wants to prove that goods made from sustainable materials can be popular and profitable so that more corporations adopt conservation-supportive alternatives to how they've been operating.E+E: Where does the wood come from?LP: Some of the wood we use is from trees that came down naturally, in a storm or pushed by volcanic lava flow. Other boards come from logs that were tossed rivers, deemed junk by illegal loggers, or from built-structure deconstruction. Each piece is built by fair trade Indonesian artisans who take care to utilize constructs to better showcase the beauty of the wood. Basically, our goal is to be a model; showing that business can be successful while also honoring and respecting the environment and its international staff members.E+E: We’ve heard Tropical Salvage's work is featured in a few local spots around town. Where can we find your pieces?LP: You can see Tropical Salvage furniture inside Prasad, Bula Kava House, Alberta Eye Care, Cabezon, and in various offices and conference rooms around town, including those at Portland State, Mercy Corps, and Hi-Tec Sports. The great thing about Portland is that all sectors are taking an interest in what is sustainable.E+E: Finally, where's your favorite spot in Indonesia? Portland?TO: My favorite place in Indonesia is Sumatra, in a primary forest. In Portland, I'm fond of several bars, Hollywood (the magical neighborhood where I live) and the up-and-coming NW industrial district where Tropical Salvage recently moved. It's tucked in but very accessible.LP: I've only been to Indonesia once, but I really loved walking on a trail, through the middle of a rice field, with palm trees and a brewing storm on the horizon. (This happened on both Java and Bali.) My favorite place in Portland is anywhere I catch a glimpse of Mt. Hood on a clear day.Tropical Salvage Store & Warehouse2233 NW 22nd AvenuePortland, OR 97210Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00-6:00 Sunday, 10:00-5:00