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Reality TV show “Salvage City” to feature St. Louis’ hidden treasures

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - A new reality television show filmed in St. Louis has some people denouncing it, even though the first episode has yet to air.

It`s called Salvage City, and features Cherokee Street businessman Sam Coffey and crew going around St. Louis, breaking into abandoned historic buildings and scrounging for hidden treasures he can repurpose and then resell from his shop on Cherokee Street, called The Factory.

It is something he has been doing for years, but last winter, he did it with a Discovery Channel camera crew in tow.

"Am I breaking the law?" Coffey asked rhetorically.  "I think it is on a case by case basis. Sometimes I probably am."

So why would a network like the Discovery Channel agree to televise crimes in progress?

The simple answer is it would not.

"It is legal for the production of the show," explained Charie Smith, whose St. Louis based company No Coast Productions co-produces the show. "We have to have everything kind of signed off and sealed up by the time it goes on air so nothing can come back on us," he said.

In other words, the reality of this reality show is the property owners said okay.

Still the producers say the dangers portrayed are real.

"If a pigeon lands in the wrong place in one of these buildings the whole thing is going to come down," said Aaron Bowden of Coolfire Originals, the other local company producing the show.

But real or not, it`s a concept Andrew Weil, Executive Director of the Landmarks Association of St. Louis finds troubling.

"I am concerned about the program possibly glorifying and also spreading the word about the opportunity that there is no enforcement nobody cares if you do stuff like this," Weil said.

Coffey insists he does not remove features of the buildings themselves, like someone did when they stole the terracotta masks off the Sun Theater in Grand Center.

But Coffey had no problem swiping a bowling pinsetter from that same building and turning it into a whiskey rack, which now sits in the production company`s office.

"If I have to break the law to do it, I absolutely see a greater good," Coffey said.

The idea of stealing something to save it is sure to be controversial. But of course that`s the plan.

"It has enough controversy in it that it is going to get people excited and talking about it which is really what we want right now," said Smith.

So far, there are only three episodes of the show. They will be broadcast back to back this Sunday at 10 A.M. on the Discovery Channel.

Read more:  Discovery Channel to Premiere 3-Part Series SALVAGE CITY, 12/22
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    • bman

      So judgmental! As a local “urban explorer”, you are breaking the law for your own personal pleasure. It seems like these guys are at least trying to do something good by saving these pieces of history…

    • Jen

      I agree with you Dennis. It’s one thing to take a look around and then leave things as you found them and quite another to steal stuff to sell to others.

  • Connie Butler

    Do you really think the producers and the Discover Channel would put this on TV is they thought they would go to jail? Wake up! It would be great if the building owners would develop their property and put it to good use for St. Louis. Don’t judge the show before you even see it. I agree that the show will be great for St. Louis.

  • nothappy

    Sam Coffey admits to stealing before this show started. They might have permission now, but he admits to not having permission before. They claim in their promos to be breaking the law and avoiding police, so either they’re frauds or thieves.

    But regardless of all that and their current legality, they’re *purposely selling the idea of breaking into buildings and taking whatever you can for profit*.

    These guys need to be shut down.

    They keep saying that they only take things that would otherwise be destroyed. This is not true. Take the marble altar pieces from the clemens chapel and other items that obviously would not have been trashed. They take only things they think will be *profitable*. They clearly have no moral guide but money. Shame on Mound City for participating and further regurgitating their bs excuses.

    • Connie Butler

      Dear Not Happy: Thank you for your comments.I am glad to read how much you care for our city. Now when do you plan on picking up the trash to make our city more beautiful?

      From: Mind-blowingly stupid

      • nothappy


        What do you know about any work I, or anyone else, has done? This is about whether or nor it’s a good idea to promote breaking and entering and felony theft.

        Do you think it’s a good idea to promote breaking/entering and felony theft? Does that sound like a good idea to you? If so, please do enlighten us. Did you watch the trailer?

        If this is truly acceptable to you (and the community at large), then let me know ASAP so I can start breaking into whatever I see that I like. Daddy needs some new toys.

  • nothappy


    You don’t seem to realize that this show is promoting the idea of breaking into buildings to steal items to sell.

    Whether they’re legal or not doing it, they’re glorifying the idea of breaking into buildings stealing shit and “getting out before the cops show up”. That’s their message.

    That anyone can think this is a good idea is mind-blowingly stupid.

    • bman

      They are glorifying the city of saint louis and putting it on the national stage. What have you done that’s so great? Your resentment is telling…

    • reality

      Are they really promoting breaking and entering or are they just showing that it happens and letting the viewer decide where they stand morally? Everything that happened in the show was done legally, they not only got permission to be there and take items, but probably PAID to do it. Perhaps they are just drawing national attention to our crumbling treasures and getting people to see beauty in them and care about them in the guise of reality entertainment. Have you seen the Clemens Mansion lately? It has been without a roof over the beautiful cathedral section for as long as I can remember. The Castle Ballroom just collapsed on itself, so what if they grabbed a toilet out of it? That may be the only thing left of it come next year.

  • nothappy

    “Am I breaking the law?” Coffey asked rhetorically. “I think it is on a case by case basis. Sometimes I probably am.”

    He’s either a fraud by pretending to be a cool law-breaker-dude or he really is dumb enough to steal shit on national television. Either way, this is despicable.

  • Jack

    You seem extremely judgmental and bitter. A closed mind is the most exspensive thing anyone can own. You should watch the show before dishing out such belligerent comments and attacking others. There are far more important things to worry about(government, economy, etc), and much more controversial shows out there.
    Now carry on with your comments im sure your going to fire at me.
    God bless

  • joshua hart

    I for one will be contacting the 3 RD district and ask them to artest these people and contact my altderman to hsve there bussiness removed

  • frank

    As someone who has family who owns many barns that look run down on the outside, but are loaded with items, people like these guys need arrested. We have lost close to $500k worth of items over the years because people think if the building looks old, they can just take it. Most people take items worth a lot of money and just scrap them for pennies on the dollar. They shouldn’t be promoting this type of behavior.

  • Mike Watching Discovery

    I watched the show. The Discovery Channel always seemed to be reputable & informing. But apparently Discovery decided that promoting late night thievery and law breaking would grab higher ratings. Not much different than the ‘Moonshiners’ series (which I’ve never watched). Discovery Channel, please leave the trash for the other networks. You can do better.

  • Tom

    Here’s a novel idea. If stealing or “not stealing” is an acceptable way of doing business let’s get together and break into “The Factory in the Cherokee Street business area and help ourselves to stuff we can sell. This reinforces the level that St Louis , has gravitated to. No wonder the city is dying. Great job St Louis Police Department.

  • reality

    Joshua, please do not annoy our hard working cops and aldermen with your uninformed complaint. Everything you saw was legal, save your bickering for the bar.

  • Timm

    I think this store should be required to provide proof to the City and police of the supposed releases that allow the, to “break and enter and steal items for resale”

  • Jeff

    Watched it and thought is was okay, but is it really legal to break into abandon buildings to make a profit? It seemed to me similar to copper thieves.

  • Blondie

    I’m from St. Louis and this show just makes me sad and embarrassed that this so-called “business” is being promoted. He got permission, this time, for the show. It’s not cool and just plan wrong. This isn’t a business. It’s a front for stolen property. It’s not the kind of promotion that the Cherokee Business Districts needs. It just gives them a black eye.

  • tim

    So now st. Louis is number 1 in breaking and entering and theft. To add it to already being number 1 in auto theft. How about seeking permission before you go in a building that isn’t yours.

  • wendy

    Well….if they are gonna put naked folks running around on discovery …….they may as well have crooks pretending to break the law. What comes next? Geeze.

  • vicky

    There are many reputable salvage contractors that DO get permission and pay for the privilege of taking items from a building. Breaking in can frequently be stealing from them! The local municipality is involved if a building is to be demolished or is “red tagged”. Perhaps the government office could notify a local non-profit organization if the building has historic items that might be given to museums or such.

  • Joshua Hart

    Reality, the poster is working with the show, and unless I miss my guess its Robert, who helped with the auction. Which would be trafficking in stolen goods. I guess he has good reason to want this to all just be accepted as showman ship.

  • Mark

    There is not much “reality” I this show. It’s clearly scripted, they had permission to get into the buildings…every “breaking and entering” was done for dramatic purposes.
    Just another scripted show being pawned as a reality show. Sam and Mia are over acting their parts, They both made the show a bit undesirable to me. Trotter is pretty true to form (I personally know him). A few of his parts were over acted as well.
    Does it make STL look bad? Probably.

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