Bo Shepherd and Kyle Dubay are reclaiming Detroit’s interior design scene one street at a time.
A passion project turned business, the duo behind Woodward Throwbacks designs and fabricates unique furnishings and art pieces from illegally dumped materials and reclaimed wood found on the streets and in abandoned buildings across the city. Scouring neighborhoods by bike and car, they look for reclaimed lumber, doors, windows, cabinets, trim and other household relics from early 20th-century Detroit and give them a new life in restaurants, office spaces, and residential homes across the globe.
EXP: What makes Woodward Throwbacks unique?
BS: Woodward Throwbacks is special because we use materials that others would discard. We constantly push the boundaries of what reclaimed furniture can be.
KD: What makes us unique are our resources. We have 1000s of salvaged pieces warehoused, and a small team of young designers, artists, and builders willing to create and build a special piece from an item that had a previous life in another use. We’re all about transforming pieces to a new use and giving them a new purpose and home.
EXP: At what point in your journey did you have an a-ha moment when you knew you were on to something great?
KD: I think there have been many moments that have led to different growth periods in our business. A recent pivot was early on during the pandemic when we moved our business fully online. We did it out of necessity and went all-in and today our e-commerce is delivering big time! It’s shown us that we can be successful in this new environment, and to that end, we’re restructuring our business and employees around an online sales model to maximize our potential.
EXP: What is your favorite project to date?
BS: My favorite collection to date is the new furniture line we’re designing and fabricating from materials we’re salvaging from our current home renovation project. It’s a more modern line, and something we haven’t seen done in our industry before.
KD: I love the new European Farmhouse tables we’re designing and prototyping. They are the perfect blend of texture and form that I’m really digging. It reminds me of some of the raw pieces we made when we first started Woodward Throwbacks. I just love that they look like they came out of an old European home, but all the wood was found locally here in Detroit!
EXP: What is your favorite memory of the Woodward Throwbacks journey?
BS: My favorite memory is when we moved our business out of our house and into our first building. It definitely made the business feel “real” at that moment.
KD: There are so many great memories, but I’m most fond of our early days working at our old shop on Michigan Avenue. We had a great crew of friends that believed in what we were trying to do. As time goes on it becomes more special and was a great validation of how far we have come.
EXP: What’s it like working with your partner?
BS: It’s not easy but it’s been an incredible journey growing a business with your significant other. It’s hard for sure and it’s inevitable that we’ll argue sometimes, but that’s the price you pay when you’re growing something that is bigger than yourselves.
“We have the same goals and it’s a lot easier building our business as a team.”
KD: It’s a blessing and a curse. So many partners work separately to better their families, but we have the amazing opportunity to work together. The downside is that we’re always in each other’s space and sometimes we need to be on our own side of the building for a while.
EXP: Congrats on your new house in the North End! What do you loved the most about it and what made you buy it?
BS: The architecture is incredible! I was working across the street and the neighbor mentioned that it was going to be for sale. We only had two days to decide whether we wanted to put in an offer…and we went for it!
KD: We love the North End and the amazing homes there. Our house is in rough shape but there is so much potential. The facade is amazing and uniquely different from most of the houses in Detroit.
EXP: What are some of your favorite spots to grab food in Hamtramck?
EXP: Vernors or Faygo?
BS: I didn’t grow up in Michigan, so I don’t have any nostalgia to Faygo, even though I love it. I did grow up drinking Vernors and there is nothing like an ice-cold Ginger Ale.
KD: It’s got to be Faygo.
EXP: Detroit style or traditional round pizza?
BS: Since I grew up on the East coast it’s got to be NY style, like Supinos!
EXP: Does Ginger have a favorite spot to run and play in Detroit?
BS/KD: Ginger is spoiled and goes on adventures all over the city. We take her to Westside Riverfront Park and random schools around the city, but her favorite spot is Belle Isle after a good rain. She loves puddles.
EXP: What is next for Woodward Throwbacks?
BS: Kyle and I have always had a clear mission, to design and build with reclaimed materials. We launched our interior design studio so we can work more closely with homeowners and developers to create authentic spaces using authentic materials. We plan to build and expand this division of the company in the coming months and years.
KD: We’ve been getting more and more opportunities to help bring sustainable design to development projects around the city. We enjoy the work, and the larger jobs allow us to save and reuse more materials, which has been our goal from the beginning.