By Krisann Rehbein
There is nothing sexier than giving—or getting—hand-crafted wood products for the holidays. RX Made, the store within the ReBuilding Exchange’s Webster Street warehouse, is stocked with gifts ranging from a $6 set of coasters up to $50 for a large cutting board. In one visit, you can hit everyone on your gift list. Pick up a rolling pin or a trivet for the baker in your life. Candle holders for Mom. Get a set of wall hooks for your man who keeps throwing his clothes on the floor. Grab a stylish beer carrying case so that six-pack you bring for the hostess stands out. Their latest product, a set of stackable record boxes called Vinyl on Vinyl, are made from maple slats from the floor of a roller rink on the South Side with a square of colorful vinyl floor squares on each end. The slats interlock to allow you to create a tower of records. They make it easy to buy thoughtful gifts, made from repurposed materials.
Made-to-order tables, chairs and other installations are from RX Made Custom run by director of product development and sales, Charlie Vinz. An IIT-trained architect who cut his chops in a variety of large and small firms before breaking out on his own, Charlie has long used ReBuilding Exchange’s stock to design knockout interiors for Beverly Kim at Parachute Restaurant, Maria’s Packaged Goods and Community Bar in Bridgeport, and collaborated for several years with Theaster Gates Studio on projects including the Dorchester Artist Housing Collaborative. At RX Made, Charlie is part of a talented team that includes manager Casey Burkitt and director of business development, Meegan Czop.
Now they can source and design custom pieces for you. If you are ready to purchase a piece of statement furniture or custom built-in, you can commission the team to do a made-to-order piece for the same price as some higher-end chain retail outlets. On my recent visit, the carpenters and apprentices were fabricating a massive custom table for a West Loop loft. The top was made from some old train car decking that has been flying off the shelves. The decking was used for a bench where it sits atop steel legs designed by local firm Strand.
If it is just a custom size you’re after, you can select your table base—wood or metal—and pick a type of wood from the top based on your taste and price per square foot. They are created from pieces of repurposed lumber from buildings that have been demolished in Chicago or come from trees that had to come down because they were infected with the Emerald Ash borer. The lumber is ripped down and glued to make a top. They are constructed by an in-house team of Chicago craftsmen, including a graduate from their training program, along with current apprentices. Each piece takes three-to-four weeks to complete.
The proceeds from your purchase go back to fulfill the mission of ReBuilding Exchange to keep materials out of landfill and offer low-cost products to a range of customers. They also use the wood shop for a job-training program. Over the years, ReBuilding Exchange has trained nearly ninety people through their apprenticeship program. Each one spends nine months with the organization, six in the warehouse and three of those months are devoted to working in the shop. Two former apprentices are now full-time employees.
In another life, you could have started your own woodshop and fabricated bespoke furniture for your family and friends. But not this life. For the homespun magic of Do-It-Yourself gift giving, have Charlie Vinz and the crew at RX Made do it for you. Better yet, you can shop at their Holiday Bazaar. The place will be packed with gifts from local and sustainable vendors and they’ll be serving beer and food. And it’s free!
ReBuilding Exchange Holiday Bazaar, December 12, 6:30pm-9:30pm at 1740 West Webster. Free.