Vintage Wood Supply celebrating 15 years of business in Eagle and Summit counties
Chris Mech's Vintage Wood Supply celebrates 15 years
Building a home has turned into a business for Chris Mech and Vintage Wood Supply.
The business started as Mech and his wife were building a home near Tennessee Pass. The couple didn’t have a lot of money for the project, so Mech shopped around for used building supplies, including used wood. That project turned into Vintage Wood Supply, which has now been in business for 15 years.
The company has stayed small — it’s just Mech and his trusty box truck and an office in a home in Leadville.
Mech and that truck pile on the miles, searching in Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and other states for materials. That material comes from old barns or homes, and sometimes old fences. The wood is used everywhere from man caves to restaurants and bars.
Mech started out with reclaimed wood, but these days there’s a market for hardwoods. There are hardwood suppliers in the Denver area, but Vintage Wood Supply is about the only local source, Mech said.
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If you watch home improvement shows, you’ve probably seen projects that include “live edge” pieces: slabs that include the tree’s bark. That’s becoming popular at the moment, Mech said.
A good bit of Mech’s hardwood inventory comes from a variety of sources, from small hobbyist mills to larger companies.
‘Really pretty pieces’
While the slabs are fresh-cut, they’re all kiln-dried, which means the piece has already done all the twisting, warping and cracking it’s going to.
Some of Mech’s hardwood supply, a variety of maple, is being used for bar shelves at Vail’s Westside Café. The café is about to install a bar top from the same wood, only with “live edges” — the tree’s bark on the edge of the slab.
“The owners have used (Mech’s products) for years — like barn wood and tin,” said Madi Fuller of the Westside Café. “He got us some really pretty pieces.”
Over the years, Mech has deliberately kept his company small. That keeps overhead low. He’s also selective about what he buys.
For instance, Mech is currently working with a Wyoming ranch owner to purchase wood from old windbreaks. That’s a different, more robust wood than the smaller pieces used as snow fences along so many highways in that wide-open, windy state.
Staying small also gives Mech the opportunity to just say no.
A Beaver Creek lodge once offered Mech “thousands of feet” of trim being discarded during a remodeling project. He said “thanks, but no thanks.”
The ups and downs
Staying in business for over 15 years hasn’t been easy. Mech acknowledges there have been flush times and thin times. But, he added, “It never dries up and it never explodes.”
Word-of-mouth referrals and some local advertising have helped keep customers calling. Those customers include builders, homeowners, hobbyists and architects. They’re attracted by the product, of course, and some are surely drawn to the sustainable aspect of the business.
“You can only slaughter a sheep once, but you can shear it many times,” he said.
“Recycling reclaimed wood is very green,” Mech said, adding that he doesn’t sell anything that came from a rainforest, and he makes monthly donations to the Dogwood Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to saving forests in the southern U.S.
With 15 years in the rearview mirror, Mech sometimes thinks about how much longer he can keep the business running.
“I’m pushing 60, so I figure I’ve got another decade in me,” he said.
To learn more about Vintage Wood Supply, go to VintageWoodSupply.com or call 970-390-7405.