“Some people look at a rustic wooden barn and see only an old building ready to retire to the scrap heap. I see a reclaimable resource ready to begin a new life as a gleaming hardwood floor,” said Jay Petre, president of Renick Millworks. Petre owns the company jointly with his brother Steve and their father Mahlon.
Renick Millworks has carved its niche producing sustainable products from recycled and reclaimed wood. Although the company also makes custom timber materials, its reclaimed wood flooring gives the company a nationwide presence among eco-minded customers. Because few U.S. companies manufacture this type of flooring, Renick Millworks draws customers from across the country.
“There are a lot of floors today that are labeled ‘rustic,’ meaning they’re given rustic characteristics,” says Jay Petre. “These floors have the rustic characteristics built in. They have the nail holes and the worm holes. They’ve been nailed on the side of a barn for 100 years.”
Renick Millworks sources most of the wood from the Appalachian Region. It comes from old barns, old houses and old factories.
“I like the reclaimed wood because it has a history to it. We can track where every floorboard came from -- whether it was an old barn in West Virginia or an old schoolhouse in Tennessee. It has its own story behind it,” he says.
The company has its roots in Monroe County, WV, where Petre grew up. He and his brother began dismantling and demolishing old buildings all along the East Coast and selling the wood, mostly to flooring companies.
In 2005, Petre built his own wood processing mill, opening Renick Millworks in Greenbrier County. The company transitioned out of demolition and into producing high-quality reclaimed wood flooring, beams and millwork, and other antique building materials.
Today, Renick Millworks purchases already dismantled structures, such as old barns, for the reclaimed wood. Nails and other metal are detected and removed. The wood is processed into kiln-dried flooring planks. The planks then are milled into high-quality wide plank antique flooring, beams and other wood products.
“I hate to see old structural buildings falling down and rotting into the ground. I think, ‘That could be made into something nice,’” says Petre. “I like the uniqueness of reclaimed wood.”
The company’s sustainability efforts also are evidenced by its Forest Stewardship Council certification and membership in the Green Building Council, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is also a member of the National Wood Flooring Assn.
Capitalizing on Resources
Small business resources also helped Renick Millworks grow. The Petres received funding and marketing assistance from the Natural Capital Investment Fund. Over the last several years, Petre has worked with the West Virginia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) business coach Jim Epling.
“Jim helped us access an Appalachian Regional Commission interest-free loan to pay down debt,” says Petre. “He has been here multiple times to prepare our books to go to a financial institution with funding proposals. The SBDC has helped us with QuickBooks training, too.”
Through the Governor’s Guaranteed Workforce Program, Renick Millworks also was able to get grants for employee technical training at the National Hardwood Flooring School in St. Louis, MO. There, they learned advanced hardwood flooring techniques, including strict installation and moisture control parameters.
The hard work and dedication is showing results. Sales increased from $180,000 the first year to approximately $1.2 million by 2008, and two years later Petre was named “Young Entrepreneur of 2010” by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s West Virginia District Office. In 2012, the company had sales over $2.5 million.
Currently Renick Millworks occupies 5 acres of land and employs 25 people. Its high-quality reclaimed wood products supply commercial and residential clients in key markets in North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, DC, New York, New England, Colorado, Arizona and California. Plans call for Renick Millworks to be branching out even further in the years ahead, including exporting, Petre says.
Catherine Zacchi is a Communications Specialist with the West Virginia Dept. of Commerce
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