Finding New Life (and Profit) in Doomed Trees

THE wooden kitchen bar in the suburban home of Richard and Donna Majer has a canyonlike crack ripping right down its middle, which is exactly what the couple cherish most about it. It’s not just furniture — it’s a story, complete with a moral.

“As I spend time with it, I see the beauty of the hard life the tree had,” Mrs. Majer says. “And it helps me find the beauty in my own life’s scars.”

The crack occurred three years ago in a storm that mortally wounded the towering oak in the Majers’s backyard. It was a family member; Mr. Majer had planted it with his father 53 years earlier. Devastated, the Majers consulted an arborist, who said yes, it had to come down, but that there were a couple of guys in Seattle they should talk to.

The guys were Seth Meyer and John Wells. The pair harvest local urban trees doomed by development, disease or storm damage, and turn them into custom furniture, each piece a distinct botanical narrative.

Their business, started four years ago, bears all the markers that would seem to point toward collapse and extinction in a recessionary economy. It’s founded on idealism and emotion. It’s riddled with huge and unavoidable inefficiencies. And it tenders a high-end product that asks buyers to take risks and have faith.

Yet the company, Meyer Wells , has thrived. It’s been profitable from the start, Mr. Wells says, and revenue has grown annually; it reached $850,000 last year, and the business partners say they’re on track to top $1 million this year. There are now nine employees, and the furniture commissions have blown well beyond suburban kitchens to high-visibility clients like Starbucks and the University of Washington.


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(Many thanks to Cary Griffin for passing this story along.)


Bozeman’s Beetle-Kill Boards finds value in damaged wood

There’s stark beauty lurking beneath the bark of the red-needled, dead-standing trees dotting tens of thousands of acres of Montana forests.

Neil Wilbert made that discovery a few months ago while cutting firewood in the Bozeman area.

His chain saw cut into trees with distinctive blue streaks radiating through the wood. It’s a telltale trademark of the mountain pine beetle’s ravenous appetite. In Wilbert’s opinion, the wood is too nice to split into kindling and burn in a fireplace.

"I just thought it was a shame to not use some really nice wood," he said.

By TOM HOWARD Billings Gazette

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