Superior Business Salvages "Urban Timber," Lands Spot on Cable TV

By KBJR News 1

December 6, 2012 Updated Dec 7, 2012 at 8:15 PM CDT

Superior, WI (NNC NOW) - Built in 1887, and one of the largest wooden grain elevators in the country to date, the towering sentinels that are the Globe Grain Elevators now sit idle in the Superior harbor.

Beneath a thin sheet of metal on the outer walls, however, lies six million board feet of old–growth Eastern White Pine—an extinct, and valuable, timber.

"Really, the only way to get old growth Eastern White Pine is by recycling it, and that's what we're trying to do," said Judy Peres, President of Wisconsin Woodchuck, LLC, as she took a break from her daily toils in the grain-turned-lumber yard.

Rather than let the antique lumber go to waste, Peres and her partner David Hozza have been working since 2005 to salvage the old–growth timber under the partnership Wisconsin Woodchuck, and the marketing alias: Old Globe Reclaimed Wood Company.

Easier said than done, says Peres, since lumber sales plummeted in 2008 with the housing construction industry slow down.

"Some of the contractors and architects that had been using our timbers and dimensional lumber earlier were now out of work," said Peres.

...which is where Patrick Donahue, director of UMD's Natural Resources Research Institute Market–Oriented Wood Technologies program comes in.

Donahue has been working to increase the market value of the company's timber, and his efforts have been successful.

"We developed an application to acrylic–impregnate her [timber] to make it harder, more resilient, so it would find more useful applications in the commercial architectural and design business," said Donahue.

It's a method that helped sell the first million board feet to venues like Amsoil Arena and the DECC, and helped gain the attention of the History Channel's hit cable series, "Ax Men." The program follows the work of several logging crews across America--a role that Peres says fits.

"I'm not a wallflower—I'm not very delicate. I can swear in five languages, I can drive a forklift, I can wield a sledgehammer, and I'm hoping that this show is tough enough for me," said Peres, laughing.

While the "Ax Men" season premiere is scheduled for this Sunday, Peres says Wisconsin Woodchuck will most likely make its series debut in February.

Posted to the web by Billy Wagness