IN FOCUS: Small Business – Rough hewn, fresh looks

Posted on Jun 1, 2015 :: Small Business Spotlight
SVerbeten
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer
Beam & Board owner John Meyer takes reclaimed wood products to a new level, through flooring, beams, walls and unique furniture offerings. Photo by Sharon Verbeten.

Beam & Board owner John Meyer takes reclaimed wood products to a new level, through flooring, beams, walls and unique furniture offerings. Photo by Sharon Verbeten.

When is a board not a board? Just ask John Meyer, owner and co-founder of Beam & Board — a small, yet very busy, Green Bay company turning reclaimed wood into contemporary décor.

“People have gotten a lot more eclectic,” says Meyer, who founded the company three years ago with Doug Budz. And the demand for reclaimed wood — both as a “green” resource as well as a trendy accent — is at an all-time high.

The company, which uses mostly locally-sourced reclaimed hardwoods (and a bit of salvaged metal and architectural finds) from demolished buildings and barns, has about one million board feet of inventory on its site off North Military Avenue. It also sells high-end distinctive new hardware for cabinets and the like; this relatively small portion of the business (which greets visitors upon entry to its building) was purchased from LaForce Inc. in Green Bay.

From all that character-laden wood, the company creates custom walls, flooring, beamwork, ceilings and unique furniture and décor pieces for both residential and commercial clients.

Because all the pieces are vintage, Meyer says the product is ideal for the “customer looking for something unique and different.”

Some examples can be seen in the showroom — old barn boards printed with words or even photographs are hung as artwork; old bleacher seats from Notre Dame High School are crafted into a massive bookcase, with shelves crafted from wood from an old Luxemburg feed mill. It’s like Pinterest ideas … right before a customer’s eyes.

“People come in and there’s a level of enthusiasm,” says Meyer, who previously worked in construction and dabbled in reclaimed products as a hobby. “This was a hobby. I don’t think we had any idea (what it would become).

“We started off really small doing everything ourselves,” he says. That includes sourcing the wood as well as all the milling, cutting, sorting, detailing, drying and finishing on site. And sometimes, Meyer says, that means doing the demolition work to acquire the wood.

Crafty connections

While most of Beam & Board’s wood comes from a 150-mile radius, Meyer has contacts throughout the state and elsewhere that keep him apprised of potential good finds. One high-profile find (and especially fitting with the corporate name) was a supply of floorboards from a 19th-century Kentucky building that held 30,000 barrels of Jim Beam whiskey. Those boards — some still bearing the distinctive purple stains from spilled spirits — have been handcrafted into many breathtaking items, including one-of-a-kind long meeting tables used at the new Initiative One headquarters in downtown Green Bay.

Beam & Board supplied the raw materials to a local artisan, who then crafted the tables to order. “We coordinate the efforts and put the projects together,” Meyer says.

Green Bay Blue in Green Bay has collaborated with Beam & Board on printing projects, especially those involving the Jim Beam wood. One interesting product is a coaster from the wood that can be printed with corporate names.

Such projects bring out the “creativity and character” of the two companies, says Andy Heyrman, owner of Green Bay Blue. “We’re able to capitalize on the character of the wood.”

The two companies share ideas that run the gamut, including notable décor pieces featuring printed images on reclaimed wood — achieved with an oversize flatbed printer that can print on almost any surface. “All of us are willing to try (new things),” Heyrman says.

Beam & Board has also collaborated with several other local companies, such as elevate97 on a design project for the Lambeau Field renovations. And Meyer’s style influence can also be seen at Kavarna coffeehouse in downtown Green Bay; Meyer owns the building.

“I love old buildings, (and that is) very consistent with who and what we are,” he says.

Investing in old, for new

Though corporate accounts are growing, about 60 percent of Beam & Board’s business is residential, Meyer estimates. That’s important, he says, because there is often a misperception its products are more expensive.

“We always run into the cost comparison with new,” he says.

While there is an expense to bringing the reclaimed treasures to a new life, Meyer says that investment “is a small amount that really changes the look and warmth” of a room.

Meyer truly believes everything old is new again. Not only do vintage pieces look right at home in contemporary homes, reusing reclaimed wood is much more than trendy. It’s eco-friendly.

But consumers aren’t just willing to shell out for old wood for that reason. They know there is a history, a story behind each board. And that means, Meyer says, a board is not just a board.

“We’re selling knots and holes and stains and cracks; we’re selling ‘story,’” he says.

ON THE WEB

Beam & Board, www.beamandboard.com