It is pretty amazing how quickly 20 years can go by.
After working in the computer biz in the early days of the web, I eventually got laid off from a fast-paced dot-com company called Net Perceptions. It was one of those moments where I could continue on the same path or take a different route. So, we started the next chapter in our journey.
In 2004, some friends of ours had given us some barn lumber from a barn that they had recently dismantled. They had hired a gentleman to take it down carefully board by board. They were ahead of their time. They tried to sell the wood, but there really weren’t any buyers if it wasn’t fully denailed and ready to go. There were only a couple of reclaimed wood companies in Minnesota at the time. I got the big old beams and was planning to make a garden arbor out of them. But I looked at the stuff and said to myself, “there’s got to be a business using this old wood.” The garden arbor never got fully built, but the business did.
We started out making reclaimed wood flooring. We went all the way from barn dismantling to denailing wood, sawing, milling, and eventually to installing. We would see a tremendous amount of nice wood get turned unto sawdust. It was also a crazy, stupid idea to go from end-to-end. Of course, in 2008, we also saw the housing crash. As we saw the housing market decline, we re-focused on tables, mantels, and countertops. This allowed us to make the best use out of the precious old reclaimed wood. We could select the best sticks of wood and craft wonderful heirloom pieces of furniture. It moved us away from a commodity business and into an artist based business. It was a wonderful choice and a challenging one as well.
But this is also a story about a family business. In 2002, we had a nearly five-year-old son but then were blessed with a set of triplets — two girls and another boy. Let’s make life as stressful as possible. Let’s try to start a business with 2-year-old triplets in tow. Our business has been more like running a family farm. Everyone helped do whatever they could. We hired helpers from time to time, but for the most part, it’s been the six of us.
The kids were on barn-site picking up nails and learning to count before they were in school. Our oldest son sold his first table that he built when he was 12. We also had the kids make “block frames” and sell them at craft sales. That was one of the ways they saved money for college. They were even in an episode of American Pickers with their work. Now, the kids are all off to college or have their own careers. It is my wife and I who do all of the work. We answer the phones, tend to website, and work with these great old pieces of wood.
We’ve done some great work over the years. We’re very proud of the portfolio that we’ve put together. But just as important, if not more so, we’re feel great about how we’ve worked with customers over the years. We’ve worked very hard to have outstanding relationships. I never imagined getting hugs from people we just met, but that’s not uncommon in our workshop. It’s great to feel good about doing solid work and hopefully leaving the world a little bit better place than when we found it.
After all of these years, it is still a blessing. And in the end, I guess that’s a job well done and life worth living.
We’re always happy to chat via email, on the phone, or in person at our workshop in Gaylord, Minnesota.
Thanks so much for the journey,
Kevin, Mari, Ben, Lucy, Ellie, and Jonah