by Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
GUNTOWN – For more than a dozen years, Butch Cook has traveled across the country taking apart old warehouses, factories, barns and other buildings.
Now, with a warehouse in Guntown and another in Verona, he’s sitting on nearly 3 million board feet of mostly heart pine lumber. Most of it is 100 to 150 years old.
Cook’s company, Vintage Flooring and Furniture, has concentrated primarily on using the wood for flooring, ceiling beams, ceiling panels and wall panels over the years, but making furniture from the old wood has become a growing segment of the business.
And with so much wood on his hands, there’s plenty he can make.
“Look at this,” he said, pointing to an 86-inch round conference table. The solid wood top alone weighs more than 300 pounds. “That’s made from 140-year-old heart pine. Like our other furniture we make, no two pieces we make look alike.”
Nine-inch bolts pulled from large beams also are used for table. They’re not only ornamental; they also help reinforce the table.
Cook has placed beams weighing 1,200 pounds or more in Colorado lodges; custom furniture has been placed in hotels; antique flooring has been laid in luxury homes across the country.
It was three years ago that Cook decided to get into the furniture making business, too.
“We’re using old wood from the finest Southern long-leaf pine,” he said. “They’re slow-growth trees and you don’t see many of them any more. Most of them were used building these old buildings that are being torn down. These trees were cut down from the 1800s to the 1930s and basically wiped out.”
It’s no wonder the tables his company makes are sturdy.
“You won’t find anything better; and we don’t use any press board – it’s all good and solid,” Cook said. “We don’t cut corners on anything.”
Cook also sees his work as environmentally friendly.
“This is recycling, and this wood is a renewable resource – we’re not throwing away anything; we’re putting it to another use,” he said.
When Cook first started, companies would pay him to remove the wood and brick from the buildings they tore down.
“Those were the good days,” he said with a laugh.
Then when the demolition companies learned Cook was reusing the wood and brick and making a little profit, the tables turned. Now Cook often has to pay the companies to take the materials off their hands.
But he doesn’t have to look for old buildings to reclaim the wood and brick – the companies come looking for him.
“We’re not the only one doing what we do, but we’re blessed that we have a lot of people who know us,” he said.
With that growing popularity, Cook thinks its time to get the furniture end of the business rolling.
Cook has shown his furniture pieces in previous Tupelo Furniture Market shows, the spring show this week is the biggest push his company has made to date. Several of the company’s pieces grace each building’s lobby, and Vintage Flooring and Furniture’s showroom in Building I is more than bare floors and walls.
The company’s work, Cook admits, isn’t for everybody. Because of the materials used and the handcrafting of each piece of furniture, prices don’t play a major role in what he designs and builds.
“We’re not really built for price points,” Cook said. “We build what we want, and if we think something needs to be added, we’ll add it. We don’t scrimp on anything. We’re going to charge what it cost for us to do it, and add a modest profit.”
And Cook also is a firm believer in getting what you pay for.
“We’re selling quality, craftsmanship and uniqueness,” he said. “Most of our sales have been to designers and decorators, but we also wholesale to retail stores. You won’t see our stuff in a garage sale, though. These are heirloom pieces to be passed down. I build them so your great-grandchildren can use them.”