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Preserving history: South Bend company transforms Studebaker floors

WSBT 22

A South Bend company is putting a piece of the former Studebaker Factory on your key chain or in your home.

Woodsmith, a woodworking company, works within the old factory. The company is one of the new tenants of building 112.

The workers use the factory to find their building materials. They say it's a long but rewarding process.

The wood is full of nails and covered in 94 years of dirt, but it is high quality wood.

"There's a lot of value to it because underneath this there's beauty," said Shaun Derda, Woodsmith Chief Operating Officer.

The wood comes from building 84 of the Studebaker factory. It's now being reclaimed in building 112, being turned into workbenches, keychains, and even pens.

"When I look at it, I can see history. I can literally in a way feel how many feet, how many cars were built on this,” said Woodsmith Owner, Kevin Smith.

Smith owns the building and realized the wood he was walking on was worth saving.

"The first instinct is to just tear it up and throw it away,” Smith said. "You shouldn't throw away your history. You need to maybe challenge yourself to figure out how to repurpose it and have it as something that can guide you into the future."

That's how Woodsmith began.

For Derda, the project is about fulfilling a family tradition.

"Studebaker means a lot to me. My grandfather worked here. That's where he started his woodworking career. Then he started his own woodworking business where dad started in that, and that's how I got into it,” Derda said.

He says it's exciting to give new purpose to the ground where his grandfather once stood.

This project is all part of the plan to completely renovate the factory. Smith has been working to create the Renaissance district with businesses, condos, and possibly even a hotel.

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