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The Eastern Echo Saturday, May 25, 2024 | Print Archive
The Eastern Echo

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Materials Unlimited closing after 50 years

The landmark Ypsilanti antique shop, with salvaged goods from around the Midwest, comes to an end.

After 50 years in business, Ypsilanti’s Materials Unlimited will be closing. Loyal patrons buy items while they can during a closing sale with everything 25% off, with whatever items remain to be held at an auction.

Now, while the business is 50 years old and is seen as a Ypsilanti staple, the store actually originated in a garage on Main Street in Ann Arbor. 

Reynold Lowe, owner of Materials Unlimited, had an interest in antiques that started at an early age when he met his girlfriend’s father, an auctioneer of early American antiques.

“He kind of took me under his wing and taught me a lot about antiques,” said Lowe. “By a series of strange events I ended up being in the creative destruction business. This was an opportunity for me to save good things, to preserve them from buildings that were gonna end up in the landfill.”

While the business expanded, Lowe’s interest shifted toward salvage and away from demolition. And as someone who had worked in the field, he knew all the demolition contractors. 

“They didn’t care about salvage. It was just one more thing that was in the way,” Lowe said. “So I would buy salvage rights from various buildings.” 

From there, Lowe started traveling around the Midwest, buying from other people too. 

“We just kept developing the business. Then we started to provide restoration services,” Lowe said.

Lowe has had customers come in for an assortment of restoration services, from an old house needing a new replacement or finding an addition that still goes with the original look of the home. Even customers come in with newer houses that simply want to showcase a piece to make their house more interesting. In fact, during COVID-19, many people working from home needed a quiet space to work in their houses and came to Lowe to make that a reality as well.

Looking back at the earlier days of his business, Lowe commented on having a sale in his garage and advertising in the Ann Arbor news before deciding to go beyond that and buying some land in Pittsfield Township.

However, tragedy struck in 1979 with a major fire that destroyed his building. Although Lowe did manage to rebuild half of the building, he saw it was time for a change. 

“We started looking for a different location,” Lowe said. 

It was then that he found the current building in Ypsilanti, originally a Staebler Brothers Motors built in 1927, later turned into a music and entertainment hall during World War II. Coincidentally, the new owners of the building are also planning on creating a music venue. 

Although a lot has changed over the years, overall, he likes the direction the city is going in, with one exception. 

“One of the things I don’t like are parking meters,” Lowe said. 

So what’s next for Reynold Lowe? Well, continuing what he did long ago: making art. 

“I do want to make some sculptures again. Pull weeds. Live on a farm,” Lowe said. 

Materials Unlimited is located at 2 W. Michigan Ave.