I was dusting a large brass duck head bookend at my cottage in northern Michigan, and a flurry of memories popped up. Brass. It was the metal in the houses where I grew up. I recall candlesticks, chandeliers, drawer pulls, letter openers — and this dusty, decorative bookend.
It’s classic “Parents.” Brass items in our homes were considered quality, and they were adored and precious. By the late 1980s I had quite a collection of brass candlesticks given to me as holiday and birthday gifts during that decade, when I finally had my own apartment. Once the 2000s arrived, brass took a back seat — but I’ve come to appreciate it in the last couple of years as something that can be refined, modern, and chic.
I’m fixated by that duck head (which could use a good polishing). With dust cloth in hand, I take a trip back a few decades to the house we moved to in Michigan when I was in seventh grade. There, every Saturday was a day for working. I used to fake-sleep in the morning, hoping I’d miss some of the chores, and it worked! I’d often hear my mother say, “Megan’s still sleeping; she must need the rest.”
If my parents weren’t cleaning windows or trimming bushes, they were inside polishing silver, especially if hosting a dinner party was on the calendar. Or Mom would be mending socks or ironing pillow cases.
Saturday chores often centered around brass. Dad would haul out a brass something or other, along with the Brasso and polishing rags. Then he’d spread newspaper on the kitchen table and polish away.
My parents were especially bent on cleaning and prep work just before remodeling projects, and specifically before they added on to their home. Brass furniture hardware was removed, polished, and replaced, while brass door hinges received an A-Plus cleaning. Beauty is in the details, right?
But as the years passed, their hands weren’t so nimble, and polishing became a bit of a pain. The question was, what’s a couple with all that tarnished metal to do? Get out the Yellow Pages and track down a polisher, of course!
I’m not really sure how Mom discovered this niche company, but sure enough, she called me one day and told me she needed to go to Saginaw because she’d found a company that polishes brass. It was simple: you’d drop your items off and pick them up a few weeks later.
The business was located on an industrial street somewhere in the shadows of the Zilwaukee Bridge near the Saginaw River, as I recall. Mom wanted me to drive her there, and I suggested we make an outing out of this odd errand. We could check out the historic Montague Inn in Saginaw, something I’d wanted to write about. We stuffed her car trunk with grocery bags and boxes brimming with brass items, and off we went.
The owner of Saginaw Custom Polishing & Buffing was friendly and efficient, and he — pardon the pun — got down to brass tacks immediately, writing down the number of items and the date when we should pick them up. What a specialized service this was. Frankly, it was a Godsend.
Which, come to think of it, is not unlike the compilation of listings in this issue of Detroit Home, which contains our first-ever Remodeling Guide. About as handy as the old Yellow Pages, these listings include some unique specialties that are sure to come in handy before, during, or after just about any type of remodeling project.
Let’s say you’re remodeling your bathroom, but want to retain the charm of the original tilework. Greener Method Cleaning & Restoration Services can bring back the original shine of your tiles by removing stain, dirt, grime, and mold. Better yet, they don’t use just any tile-cleaner; the staff only uses green products! See what I mean about specific and special?
We’ve also included six Case Studies in our Remodeling Guide to showcase some befores and afters, and to share a treasure-trove of resources used for the stunning makeovers.
Take the Conklins, for example. They remodeled their master suite, and paid close attention to every detail. Clare Conklin says she was adamant about adding just a bit of sheen in the way of a brass light fixture — which, after writing this column, gives me an idea: Clare, when it’s time to polish that fixture, I know where you can get it done! I recently tracked that business down and discovered it’s still in Saginaw (in a different building) and going strong with the same person we dealt with so long ago. It’s Saginaw Custom Polishing & Buffing at 3247 Fashion Square Blvd.
— Megan Swoyer
PS. If you’re a professional in the remodeling industry who is not on the list, please contact us so that we can find out more about your business and potentially include you in a future listing. Email MSwoyer@Hour-Media.com.