Priestly Demolition makes its television debut on History Channel

priestly demolition

At Priestly Demolition, they’ve always considered their work a spectator sport. Now, their audience is about to grow nationwide.

On Sunday, September 15, the History Channel debuts Salvage Kings, a Canadian-original series that features the demolition and salvage team at Priestly Demolition Inc.

“A lot of people stand on the street and watch our demolition. Now, they can sit at home and watch from their chesterfield,” said Ryan Priestly, president of the demolition company. “That will definitely be a hit for sure. People like to see buildings come down. We always say, ‘demolition is a spectator sport.’”

Rubble into riches

The show follows Priestly Demolition’s head of salvage, Ted Finch, his right-hand man, Justin Fortin and rookie Julien Savage, as they hunt for as many valuable items as they can find in buildings that are slated for demolition.

“Basically, we try to document how we approach the demolition, and how we approach the salvage before demolition,” Priestly said. “What’s unique about our company is that we don’t just save big tickets items. If we find an old jar or an old cookie tin or an old small antique, we bring it back.”

As the salvage team hunts for potentially valuable items, their search is hurried by the demolition team that’s eager to meet their deadline.

“Once we incorporate all of it, it becomes a very interesting show because we go into how we take the buildings down to how we save things like steel or wood from the building itself,” Priestly said.

Once items are reclaimed, they’re stored and sold at Priestly’s National Storage Yard, which houses about 2,000 items from barn doors to movie props to building supplies. Priestly noted the value of salvaged items may be as low as $25 and up to $250,000.

“The range is quite large on the salvage side. We try to sell just about anything we think we can,” Priestly said.

The Salvage Kings premiere

In the series premiere of Salvage Kings, Ted and Justin travel to Market Village Mall in Markham, Ontario, where they are tasked with unlocking mysterious vault doors, while the demolition team begins its tear down. The salvage team needs to move fast if they want to discover what is hiding inside the locked vaults.

According to the History Channel, the show’s audience will be amazed at the hidden gems the team finds, as well as the stories behind the objects.

“I think it will be fun to a certain degree to watch us on TV, and it will be good for our company as a whole for people to see who we are and what we do. It’s good exposure,” Priestly said, noting he will be joined by family and friends to watch the premiere.

Priestly Demolition, based in King City, Ontario, began as Vic Priestly Contracting Limited more than 40 years ago, Priestly Demolition Inc. was incorporated as a unionized company in 1993.

When the company incorporated, it had a staff of about 10 employees. Today, the company has grown to about 300 people and a fleet that includes about 100 excavators. Although the company mainly works in Ontario, it has worked on projects in Goose Bay, Labrador to north of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Throughout the company’s history, salvage has always been an important aspect for Vic Priestly, the company’s founder and Ryan’s father.

“My father definitely has that reuse mentality. The term sustainable has been in the back of our minds since day one,” Priestly said. “We’ve had good luck with selling things over the years and you get to know what you can and can’t do with stuff.

“Now, it’s all about making sure that we don’t haul things up and down the road that we can’t sell one day.”

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Salvage Kings is produced by Media Headquarters in association with Corus Studios for the History Channel. The pilot was presented last year at the MIPCOM entertainment content market in Cannes, France.

“We’ve been approached a couple of times over the years about doing something like this. This one here just grabbed us,” Priestly said.  

A show based solely on demolition wasn’t of interest for Priestly. However, by including the salvage side of the business, the television show made more sense.

“With a show like this, when you watch somebody build a car or a motorbike, at the end there’s a big reveal,” he said. “For a lot of our jobs, the big reveal is a piece of flat land or a hole in the ground. It’s a great reveal because the job’s done, but it’s not a great reveal from an excitement point of view.

“Salvage keeps the story going. The big reveal can be that we sold this item.”

Priestly Demolition’s fleet

For the demolition aspect of the show, Priestly promises Salvage Kings will deliver a wide range of equipment, equipped with a variety of attachments, from mini excavators to some of the company’s largest demolition excavators, like the 100-ton Kobelco SK1000 or the 80-ton Link-Belt 800.

“You’ll see some of the pride of our fleet,” Priestly said. “Some of the bigger machines people will like the most, but really it’s about the project, and which piece of equipment works for the project.”

Season 1 of Salvage Kings includes 10 episodes, which air Sundays at 10 pm on the History Channel.