A few years ago, Mike Hunziker and Jon Smith came up with the idea of making wood garden furniture in their spare time. They had a few tools in an old shop — including a 1943 table saw — and a relative who created similar items and could give them a few tips.
“We went into it thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if some of this sells, and immediately were over our heads,” Hunziker said. Selling all their inventory right away was an encouraging sign. The two friends started adding new designs to their furniture, and under the name of Garden Wood Designs attended farmer’s markets and a few garden shows. They designed their own Website where they could take orders online —and the business took off. “We couldn’t build it (furniture) fast enough,” Smith said.
Hunziker and Smith, who both work full time as teachers, had to slow down their business for a while due to various other priorities. Now, they mostly build furniture when someone makes an order.
What’s unique about the potting sheds and benches, chairs and planters they create is the wood — they travel all around the state to find old lumber. All the furniture is made out of reclaimed wood. Although it has a weathered look to it, the furniture has great integrity and superior quality, they said.
“It takes a lot of time to find wood that is solid,” Smith said.
The business has great potential to grow, but Smith and Hunziker have to control that growth in order to be successful as well as balance their business with their families and other commitments.
Their designs have evolved and improved with time as they continued to come up with new ideas. Some of their furniture could be seen in places like Cisco Morris’ garden show on television, the “Extreme Makeover” home recently built in Burley, or at a fund-raising show for the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle.
The two friends often donate their creations to various fund-raisers and causes, but the recent “Extreme Makeover” experience was a highlight. After visiting the construction site and speaking with the project manager, Hunziker’s idea to build a potting shed for the family’s yard received the thumbs up. The next day, they were asked if they could provide two benches as well. “Jon and I stayed up one night until 3 a.m. and put them together,” Hunziker said.
The pair get enjoyment out of building their products, then delivering them to customers and seeing them pleased. As long as they enjoy the creativity and keep their side business fun, they plan to continue coming up with ideas and helping the business evolve.
“Some guys like to go fishing. We like to go to the shop,” “Hunziker said.