Black Dog Salvage owners to be honored as Entrepreneurs of the Year

Robert Kulp and Mike Whiteside (left to right) of Black Dog Salvage
Robert Kulp and Mike Whiteside (left to right) of Black Dog Salvage (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - If you have any doubts about how famous the stars of the hit cable TV show "Salvage Dawgs" are, just spend a little time watching their customers. When Mike Whiteside and Robert Kulp walk out on the showroom floor, camera phones emerge from pockets and purses faster than you can say "black dog."

"I watch every Sunday night," said a customer from out-of-state as she shook Whiteside's hand, she is clearly a devotee.

The team's exploits, as they salvage useful parts of decrepit buildings and re-purpose old furniture, known as upcycling, really is reality TV.

"The television people are coming along and really documenting what we're doing on a daily basis," said Kulp. Who explained that the team spends equal amounts of time doing television as opposed to their time working on the retail side of the business at their location in Roanoke.

Surprisingly; however, the Dawgs spend more time salvaging now than they did before they got into the TV business. It's in order to have enough material for the TV program.

"Each and every one of them (episodes) requires a salvage project so you got to feed that machine for the TV show. And of course what that does is create this huge massive inventory that needs to be processed, which increases the amount of people it takes to receive that stuff and then do something with it," said Kulp.

Fortunately, Kulp said sales have tripled with the attention the show has generated. And outside the building, Whiteside pointed out areas where the pair has expansion plans.

"It's about 2 acres we're getting ready to turn it into more parking. We need more parking like crazy. We're going to add some outdoor storage for salvage. And then possibly small retail space," he said.

Black Dog Salvage has launched a branded line of furniture, red raspberry jam and a line of furniture paint sold online and at Woodcraft Stores across the nation. The paint comes complete with Roanoke sounding names.

"You got Roanoke Rain, which is very popular," said Whiteside showing a can of paint.

The Salvage Dogs have shot as many as 26 segments in a given year. Season six is on the air right now, and season seven has already been taken care of and they just signed on for season eight.

"The first season and two seasons it's like 'WHEW I can't do this for that long for that kind of money.' You know because it's really, we were investing our time to see if we could if it could happen. And we were just riding the potential wave. That's where it's coming now where we are really got some momentum. And the ability is the advertising arm and the ability to market our brand," said Whiteside.

I asked if they thought of themselves as famous, which drew a quick laugh. "I think he does," said Kulp, pointing at Whiteside and laughing.

"No, I don't honestly truly. It's humbling to have people come and think you are something other than what you are, but were the same people we always were. You either accept it or you don't and it's, as far as fame, stay grounded," he said.

And if it should all suddenly go away, they want to have created a sustainable model that goes beyond the salvage business.

In the meantime, they really look like they are having fun.

Says the pair, "When your crunch it down to 22 minutes we have a pretty interesting life don't we Mike? "Yeah," said Whiteside, "It's a laugh a minute."

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