Five years ago, Keith Anderson started Iron Rose Collection in Salt Lake City, Utah with the goal of upcycling: creatively reusing byproducts, waste products or trash that would otherwise be thrown away.
In Anderson’s case, he took wine and whiskey barrels and deconstructed them. From the staves, hoops and heads, he crafted all manners of rustic and useful home decor items. He quickly discovered his bestseller was Lazy Susans, which are turntables that aid in distributing food at kitchen and dining room tables.
Anderson has moved this unique business from Salt Lake City to Albion where he can make his products and access Midwest markets.
Anderson makes his version of a Lazy Susan, what he calls a Sexy Susan, from the top of a wine barrel. With a circular saw, he slices off the barrel head and the galvanized iron head hoop, leaving him with a round foundation for a helpful kitchen device.
A barrel is more than just its head, though, so Anderson has found creative uses for the rest of the barrel, referred to in the coopering world as “staves.” Anderson crafts quote placards, wine racks and wine stoppers out of the leftover staves.
Anderson had found his upcycling niche. He started looking for markets and events in which to sell his products. From his home base in Salt Lake City, he traveled all around the United States — Texas, Arizona, Nevada, California, Oklahoma and Utah — to sell his goods.
But Anderson was ready for a change. Salt Lake City was becoming too crowded and too expensive for his taste. Anderson was ready to leave, and he thought Albion was ready to welcome him.
Anderson was visiting his brother, Dan, in Marshall, when he first became exposed to Albion. Dan showed Anderson what Albion had to offer. Anderson was hooked. The choice to move here made sound business sense.
“I loved coming to Albion because I’m basically three hours from major metropolitan areas. Albion is a centrally located hub,” he said. At that hub, Anderson believes, is ample opportunity for residential and business development.
Anderson bought a 1,200 square-foot shop and a fixer-upper house in town. He believes there’s room for others to move here as well.
“The housing stock is very affordable,” he said. “There’s a plethora of homes: homes on the river, homes downtown and homes on farmland. I’m amazed at the breadth and depth of the housing stock up here.”
Anderson hopes the plentiful, affordable housing will prove appealing for more artists and makers to move into the city.
Anderson also mentioned the strong feel of community he received when he visited. On a recent walk downtown, he met Frank Passic, Albion historian, and Ben Wade (‘99) a co-owner of the Albion Malleable Brewing Company—both caught him up on Albion’s exciting development.
“The community feels like it’s really into [its revitalization],” he said.
Another attraction for Anderson was Albion College’s Nancy Held Equestrian Center. Many of the events Anderson has sold his products at in the past have been horse shows and rodeos.
Anderson enumerated many of Albion’s advantages that he said have encouraged others to move to Albion as well: the open retail space downtown, Albion’s 17 parks, the Albion Food Hub, the Amtrak stop and the recreation opportunities on Albion’s trails and the Kalamazoo Rriver,. This all combined to give Albion an impressive résumé for business creation.
“With just the short exposure I’ve had to Albion, I believe the city is at a [positive] tipping point,” he said. “Coming in as an outsider, I am really excited about where Albion is headed. It has so much to offer.”
Anderson’s upcycled products and events where he will be selling his product can be found at his website.