Sometimes what you want isn’t what you end up with, and Dan Vollmer of Omaha, Nebraska is grateful. He salvaged wood from an old barn to put down as flooring in his house – but there wasn’t enough wood. Dan had a driveway piled with barn scraps and had to do something with it, so he made a few boxes out of it to sell. That didn’t go well either until a friend suggested he make smaller trays with handles.
Dan took the idea a step further when he asked the barn’s owner about its history.
"He was telling me stories about how his kids used to play in there, and how they decorated for Christmas," says Dan. "I found it interesting that the barn had so much history and stories to tell, but now it was just a pile of wood. So what I wanted to do was to take that story that he told me and transfer that onto the back of each tray. ‘This tray is from a barn that was built in 1887, it housed livestock, and it was the farmer’s lifeline."
As Dan made the trays, he started selling them for high school fundraisers, craft shows, and the Omaha farmer’s market. In less than two-years, his idea has grown from a hobby in his garage to a full-time business with employees, called Barnwood Trays.
Dan says when people can attach a barn’s history to their purchase, it makes it more special and enticing. One woman bought a tray for her 90-year-old aunt who used to live in Nebraska.
"She grew up right next door to that barn and she used to play in that barn when she was a kid," says Dan. "So this was 70-80-years ago when she was there, and now she has a piece of that sitting on her table."
Dan says as he dismantles old barns, he’s finding more ways to repurpose not only the wood, but the hardware and other remnants to keep its history alive.
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