Category: Wood

Animalistic Chainsaw Carving

On busy Route 6, Scott Dow has carved out a niche business for himself – pardon the pun. With his business, Animalistic Chainsaw Carving, he is showing how arts and business intersect.

Dow’s business, which straddles Elgin Borough and Wayne Township, is immediately recognizable to anyone who has traveled along Route 6. A hulking Bigfoot lumbers through the parking lot. A wizened face emerges from a tree stump. And ghoulish zombies rise from the ground and hang from a roof.

The creations – intricate and whimsical – continue indoors, where Dowd has a gallery of creations, including more fine-arts pieces.

It reflects his artistic training. Dow, who has a master’s in fine arts from Edinboro University, wanted to find a creative outlet when he started his chainsaw carving.

“I wasn’t going to just carve bears,” he says. “I was going to be different from everyone else.”

But, Dow says wryly, it turns out that “people want bears,” and they’ve turned out to be his second-biggest seller (eagles hold the top spot).

Watching Dow carve is observing an artist at work. As his chainsaw cuts and slices, a shape gradually emerges from a towering tree stump. Soon it will be another Bigfoot, this one with arms swinging. Dow occasionally steps back from the spray of wood chips to view the piece from different angles before diving back in, the path of his chainsaw established.

In nice weather, Dow carves his creations in the parking lot outside his workshop, in view of the traffic passing by on Route 6. It’s a prime location that has supported his business, allowing him to dedicate himself full time to the business for the past five years.

On the day we were there, several cars pulled off – either to browse or buy – during our brief visit. One couple, from Florida, had been there before and stopped again to explore.

The traffic on Route 6 was a pleasant surprise for him – a prime location that has supported his business and brought out-of-town visitors past his shop.

“There’s always a lot of campers and kayaks coming by, and these people are always in a good mood,” Dow says.

About Animalistic Chainsaw Carving: Dow uses white pine, mainly sourcing his material from felled trees that loggers don’t want or leave behind. He does some on-site carving work and participates in a few festivals, but he’s mostly content to carve at his workshop and sell from his gallery on Route 6. In general, he prefers to carve a piece first, finding something suitable for the tree, and sell it once complete, rather than taking orders.

Why Erie County: Dow has an easy time accessing quality material – logs and tree stumps – for his pieces, thanks to the plentiful forest land in our area. In addition, he has found that his location along Route 6 has been a boon for his business, as it brings both Erie County residents and out-of-area tourists right past his door. “From Memorial Day to Labor Day, this is an amazing place to be,” he says.

Challenges of Erie County: The seasonal traffic also has a downside, which includes an annual slowdown in the colder weather months. In addition, the job itself has its challenges. Dow must grapple with physical demands of the job – including staying healthy and safe. He also faced a learning curve when he first began his business. Dow had never before used a chainsaw before starting his venture, and says it took years to master the upkeep and use of the equipment.

Fun fact: The biggest piece Dow has created is a 22-foot Tyrannosaurus rex that he installed – emerging from woods into a clearing – for a customer in the Catskills.

Address: 11543 U.S. Route 6, Corry, PA 16407

Dovetail Gallery

Owner Gary Cacchione’s creativity and enthusiasm are clearly evident in Dovetail Gallery’s offices and workshops, situated in a renovated building on Erie’s east side. The offices are decorated with colorful works of art, and the workshop areas are airy and bright.

Dovetail Gallery, which specializes in upscale architectural millwork, has been at the location since 1992, and the business is looking to expand, Cacchione says. That potential growth is a reflection of the current offerings, but it also represents a vision for a new product line that Cacchione has in his sights.

If history is any guide, Cacchione’s vision might prove fruitful. It was, after all, his concept that launched his business in the first place.

He took a roundabout path to becoming a craftsman and businessman. He originally went to college to be a doctor, but realized that medicine wasn’t his passion – and therefore wasn’t his path in life. He did some work in building and construction, after watching his father in the workshop for years. He ended up building a desk and credenza for a family member who worked at a high-end Washington, D.C., law firm. That gave him connections to other clients and architects, and his business was born.

Now, Dovetail Gallery does high-quality custom work for commercial projects across the country. The company works predominantly with general contractors on high-end facilities in major cities, with only a small portion of its work going into local homes and businesses. As a result, the company brings about $4 million into the local economy each year.

It’s a successful enterprise rooted in Erie County, one that was the result not just of hard work and talent, but also of a willingness to take a chance – to blend all three in order to achieve your dream.

For Gary Cacchione, that chance paid off, and provided him with not just a profession, but a passion.

“I like my job,” he says. “I really do.”

About Dovetail Gallery: The business, which was incorporated in 1985, has made its mark on swanky casinos and posh restaurants in the nation’s largest cities, and even on facilities around Erie. Though the company is known for its woodworking, it also does some work in metal, glass and plastic. The company’s staff, which fluctuates based on orders, is currently at about 20, but Cacchione anticipates that he’ll be back up to a full staff of about 30 employees soon.

Why Erie County: Cacchione, an Erie native, finds that his roots in the community can translate to connections. Connections also helped him overcome some of the challenges of his business, including finding employees with the appropriate cabinet-making skills. He began working with Karen Ernst, who teaches woodworking and furniture design at Edinboro University’s Art Department, to help him find trained workers.

Challenges of Erie County: Aside from the above-mentioned challenges in finding skilled woodworkers, Cacchione cites some of the expenses that can be significant for any small business. He also points out that it can be difficult to get lending as a small business in Erie County, since many of the banks make their lending decisions out of town.

Fun fact: Dovetail refers to a style of interlocking joint used in woodworking.

Address: 352 E. 18th St., Erie, PA 16503 or www.dovetailgalleryinc.com

 

Coming up next week: We head out to Franklin Township to tour (and taste) Hurry Hill Farm.

Allegheny Wood Works

My visit to Allegheny Wood Works in Lake City reinforced the importance of partnership.

It was partnership that brought the current owners – brothers Steve and Mike Kraus – together in the business.

Both men bring unique business skills to their enterprise, and are thus able to complement each other. Steve Kraus, who has a background in retail, oversees the human resources, sales and accounting side of the business. Mike Kraus, who has a background in finance, now oversees the production and the shipping. Both left their previous careers to buy into the business, which is tucked away on a quiet street in Lake City.

“We’re the biggest manufacturer that no one knows is here,” Steve Kraus jokes.

As the owners since January 2014, the Kraus brothers are now proud to call themselves the largest manufacturer of solid hardwood doors in the country – or at least the largest that they know of.

During a tour of the Lake City facility, the care and craftsmanship that went into every door is apparent. The company prides itself on the quality of its work, starting with the quality of its lumber. We saw the door-making process from start to finish, culminating in the finishing touches applied by workers from Elk Creek Painting.

That brings me to another partnership: Allegheny Wood Works leases space to Elk Creek Painting, which in turn handles finishing work, such as wood staining. It’s a relationship that serves both companies well.

“That’s helping to support another 10 families,” Mike Kraus says, in addition to the 27 on Allegheny Wood Works’ payroll.

About Allegheny Wood Works: The company sells solid hardwood doors across the country and internationally, but they’ll also sell one “to the guy down the street,” Mike Kraus says. They do quite a bit of business in new home construction, but they’ve also found that their products – especially custom orders – are in demand for renovations of historic buildings and homes.

Why Erie County: Allegheny Wood Works predates the Kraus brothers’ ownership, but they are content with its location – not just in Erie County, but in west county specifically. They are Erie County natives, and they recently moved their families from elsewhere in the county to the Lake City area. They appreciate the logistics advantages offered by Erie County, and also the relative proximity to quality Appalachian hardwood.

Challenges of Erie County: Some of the challenges that Allegheny Wood Works has faced arise from state laws. In Pennsylvania, unemployment costs can be prohibitive, the Kraus brothers said – so they developed a system to ensure that a worker is a good fit for their company before offering full-time employment. They work with an agency to place workers on a temporary basis, which gives them the option to offer full-time employment once they are confident that the employee will be a strong addition to the Allegheny Wood Works Team.

Fun fact: Allegheny Wood Works does its own etching on glass inserts in doors. No design is too simple or too intricate.

Address: 10003 Railroad Street, Lake City, PA 16423 or www.solidhardwooddoors.com

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