Baraboo Woodworks, a local company that aims to expand the buy local concept from food to the table you put it on, will hold its grand opening Wednesday in Madison.
Owned by retiring state Rep. Fred Clark, whose time in the Legislature ends in January, the event will take place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Baraboo Woodworks is located at 84 North Bryan Street, a block off Milwaukee Street on the city’s east side.
The shop will include a retail show room for a line of handcrafted wood furniture, which Clark said is still expanding, and a retail lumber yard.
Clark described his latest business endeavor as an extension of his commitment to land stewardship by providing a market for well-managed, locally grown wood.
“We get some of the most beautiful lumber from these urban trees. They are full of beautiful grains and all kinds of knots and swirls,” said Clark, a longtime conservationist and owner of Baraboo-based Clark Forestry. “Once seen as defects, more and more customers like this look.”
Baraboo Woodworks is a member of the Wisconsin Urban Wood Network, a coalition of companies and people committed to utilizing urban wood. In this case, a bulk of the urban wood the company is starting with is the roughly 8,500 ash trees slated to be removed from neighborhoods across Madison, a result of a disease spread by the invasive emerald ash borer that makes trees brittle and dangerous.
The company received a $25,000 grant from the city to help tackle the emerald ash borer problem. Baraboo Woodworks will provide the sawmill service and mill the trees into lumber. It will help the city sell the wood and purchase some of it to turn into furniture, Clark said.
Clark estimated his company would recover 15,000-25,000 board feet in urban lumber this year, with a majority of that coming from trees infested by the emerald ash borer.
“The growing infestation of emerald ash borer is dramatically increasing the amount of wood being removed around the state,” Clark said. “We are capturing some of that volume of wood. Instead of it being ground up into wood chips we will turn it into fine lumber, flooring, furniture, tables, and benches.”
George Dreckmann, Madison’s recycling coordinator, said using the ash trees for wood furniture and other products is an alternative to simply mulching the wood or using it for firewood.
“It has some promise, certainly,” Dreckmann said. “I know there is interest among the public to see the ash trees that are coming down turned into something else.”
Clark said the company also will be purchasing wood raised by private owners who participate in the state’s managed forest land program, which provides tax incentives to participants.
“People making the investment to manage their land and forests should be rewarded,” he said. “Through this business, we want to help improve the economic incentives for people to do that.”
Clark, said he wanted to have a presence in Madison, a city where people are interested in local, sustainable products.
“We are finding that by finding sources of wood from city trees and trees from well managed forest land … we have a great local selection,” Clark said. “That means people don’t have to buy tropical hardwood harvested from a rain forest in Brazil.”