photo: Nicole Keiper
As prevalent as reclaimed wood is these days — from restaurant walls to residential floors — you’d think the raw materials were easy to come by. You would be very, very wrong, according to Good Wood Nashville founder Dave Puncochar.
When he and his wife Jenny purchased a foreclosed, 102-year-old Victorian near 5 Points to fix up, Puncochar found that out the hard way. Much of the home’s beautiful, old-growth heart poplar floors had fallen prey to roof leak-bred water damage, and since the Puncochars had passionate intentions to restore the home in as historically accurate a way as possible, a hunt for matching replacement wood began. Only, see, modern poplar looks about as much like old-growth heart poplar as two-plops look like that 102-year-old Victorian. And real old-growth heart poplar turned out to be about as easy to find as an East Nashville bargain in 2014.
“My ‘customer experience’ was really rough,” Puncochar says of his Craigslisting and other reclaimed-wood sleuthery. “I had people stand me up, people tell you they’d send you samples and they never would… one guy’s dog bit me a couple times.”
That frustrating hunt (don’t worry, there’s a happy ending — he did find some suitable poplar) sparked the inspiration for Good Wood, a reclaimed lumber oasis and custom furniture hub based in Inglewood for the past year and a half or so. At Good Wood, customers can swing by in search of specific lumber, or peruse a broad collection of weathered barn planks, time-worn beams and beautiful live-edge slabs. So, OK, raw reclaimed wood materials are pretty easy to come by now, if you’re in East Nashville, thanks to Good Wood.
We dropped by the store to chat with Puncochar about the neighborhood, the charm of old wood and some really cool projects the company has in the works.
The East Nashvillian: Did you have a background in construction or woodworking before starting Good Wood?
Dave Puncochar: “Not at all. I grew up doing some construction in high school for my dad’s friend, who employed me for a couple summers, and I took a woodworking class in college, and I just loved it. And that’s really it. I did sales for a long time, and got into this whole thing by accident.”
What made you choose East Nashville?
“Well, my wife and I lived in the city in Knoxville, we also lived in Spain, I lived in Italy, and we both just loved city living. And we felt like East Nashville is the closest thing to that feel of a metropolitan international city where you can live and work and play and eat and walk your kids to school. We just loved the diversity of East Nashville, loved the old homes. About eight or 10 years ago, my parents left Brentwood and moved to East Nashville; my brother [Micah of Maples & Bloom] lives in East Nashville, so we had some family here.
Reclaimed wood selections at Good Wood; photo: Nicole Keiper
Can you tell us more about how fixing up your own East Nashville house inspired Good Wood?
“My wife Jenny and I, we just couldn’t believe how hard it was of an experience [to find the wood we were looking for]. I learned how to work with some of these guys, and I found one guy that I was able to work with and we had a good relationship, so I started buying even just regular barn wood from him and bringing it in to store in my garage… We just started selling out of our garage. Then I ran into a friend of mine, who was opening Pub5 [downtown], and she told me what they were doing. I said, ‘I’m starting to make barn wood floors.’ So she and her partners hired us. It was our first floor sale. They really took a risk on us. …
“So we started spreading the word — we didn’t launch a website, we just wanted to work through our contacts. I still had a full-time day job. I think I did a couple Craigslist ads that I was selling barn wood. We just started growing real slowly, and then other people started getting in touch. I would have people coming to my garage for wood, and it felt like a drug deal. … It really was just funny.”
Do you usually know the origin of the reclaimed wood you sell? Like, “This came from a barn on a pig farm in Kentucky from 1893?”
“Sometimes we do. There’s a few tables we just built that came from a Kentucky feed mill. One of the floors I just did for a client on Eastland was from a barn that came off of Concord Rd. in Brentwood, and we just made a sliding barn door for a client [with that wood], and I think both of those clients knew which barn I was talking about, which was neat.
“Something that we’re really excited about: We have a new line of furniture coming out called our 1897 Centennial line. When they built the Parthenon for the Tennessee Centennial in 1897, they had like 200 acres of out-buildings and different buildings for this celebration. And the agriculture building was this beautiful palace. After all that was done, they left the Parthenon up and … then the lumber from the agriculture building was sold to a fella, he got mules and buggies and took it down to Smyrna and built a barn. Then we just took that barn down. We’ve kept all that wood together, and we’re gonna make a certain line of dining room tables and furniture from that, so that people know: That came from the Tennessee Centennial celebration.
“We had some wood in here that came out of Fort Knox; they took down some barracks, and we know those heart pine beams are from there. So now one of my clients down in Murfreesboro, he has those beams in his ceiling and he knows that. So that’s pretty cool.”
special Good Wood boards for Lockeland Table; photo: Nicole Keiper
How did the furniture-building part of Good Wood come about?
“We weren’t building furniture early on. … Basically what happened was, because of our wood, people started asking us to do things with it. So early on I could either put them in touch with a friend of mine, and sometimes we did, or they’d say, ‘Can you just handle it all? I don’t care who you use — if you’re working with your friend, that’s great.’ They didn’t care, they just wanted a table.
“Pub5, I built their sandwich board in my garage. I literally painted their sign in their entrance on my kitchen island. My wife is a very gracious woman. And that’s what you do when you start a small business. The furniture basically [came] because of our wood. Our wood is so beautiful — old wood is so much prettier than new wood… So people just starting asking us if we could do it. I just like to solve problems for people so I’d say, ‘Yeah, let us try,’ and we’d just figure out a way. Then I was able to hire some guys who are much more skilled and really want to be craftsmen. The furniture came out of demand, just because people would say, ‘I want you to do it.’ They liked our company, they liked us, they didn’t want to take our wood somewhere else.”
For more on Good Wood Nashville, visit their website, or drop by the store at 1015 W Kirkland Ave., Suite 406.