ISLAMORADA -- One person's maritime debris could be another's treasure. That's the idea behind a local couple's new restoration venture, McNewAgain.
Joshua and Alena McNew moved to Islamorada from Hot Springs, Ark., almost a year ago and since then have been scavenging the mangroves for possible treasures. Most of what they come across, though, is useless.
"It's amazing how many shoes we find," Alena McNew said. "You'd think people were walking around with one shoe."
But often among the flotsam and jetsam is a gem or two that can be made new again.
Alena McNew, a former high school teacher, works as a lab manager at Coral Shores High School, when not caring for her three small children. She likes to search for lost treasures and mainly works on promoting the business.
Husband Joshua is a self-described 1990s street artist who's now putting those talents to a different use.
Most of what the restoration business sells is reclaimed and restored wood products, whether it be a lobster trap or just a commercial pallet. A nautical design is often added.
At an art event last week in Islamorada, the couple was auctioning off a bottle they found containing messages. Alena said they struggled with themselves not to open the bottle.
"I hope no one's out there lost at sea waiting on us," she said.
By press time, the silent auction bid for the bottle was at $60.
Antique and colorful glass bottles also make for popular restoration items, the couple says.
Other than glass and wood, the couple also restores furniture, such as dressers, chairs and tables. Prices range around $100 to $400 for restoration products. But the couple says making money is not their goal. The McNews said they want to turn the month-old business into a nonprofit and teach the practice of reclaiming and recycling used items to high school students.
"I want to get them out there in the mangroves and show them what I'm doing," Joshua McNew said.
He said he is in the process of applying for a 501c3, nonprofit status.
The McNew family spends most of their time scavenging the oceanside mangroves of Islamorada, but at least once per week will take out on the boat to explore other shorelines.
Currently, the couple are basing their new endeavor out of their home and showcasing their work at events and festivals in Islamorada. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/mcnewagain.