Haywood County native Zac Guy brings business to BethelAppalachian Antique Hardwoods going strong
At the young age of 17, Zac Guy got his first start in business.
He’d just torn town an old barn and was hauling away the wood in his truck when he made what he thought would be a quick stop at Bethel Grocery. But the antique wood immediately attracted the attention of a man in the parking lot, who offered to buy the whole load right then and there out of Guy’s truck bed.
After refusing a few times, Guy finally agreed and was told that if he had any more wood like it, the man would buy that, too. Seeing an opportunity, Guy used the money from the sale to buy another old barn and tear it down. Then, he turned around and sold that wood for an even bigger profit.
“Something sort of sparked, and I said, ‘Huh, maybe somebody is interested in this,’” he said.
The business born of that chance encounter would help Guy pay for college, provide extra income for his family and eventually become his full-time work as Appalachian Antique Hardwoods grew and flourished.
“We haven’t looked back,” Guy said of his decision to go full time into the business.
In the 17 years since its creation, Appalachian Antique Hardwoods has steadily grown, most recently expanding to a new plant in Bethel where General Dynamics used to be. Ironically, the business is only a few hundred yards from where Guy made his first sale, but given the owner’s commitment to keeping things local, it isn’t too surprising.
“We have committed ourselves to a pro-Haywood County approach,” Guy said.
With only a few exceptions, Appalachian Antique Hardwoods employees are almost all from Haywood County, and Guy said he means to keep it that way.
“That’s very near and dear to me because I see industrialization leaving Haywood County,” he said. “It’s home to me, and I want to make sure it’s always home to me. That money we pay our employees goes to support the local economy. It’s been a wonderful opportunity for us to give back to our local economy.”
Despite offers and incentives to move the company outside of Haywood or even outside of North Carolina, Guy remains firmly in place, building a business that has not only survived but thrived in what has been a challenging economy for the past five years.
The key to their success paying close attention to market demands in order to better cater to them, said Erwin Loveland, the company’s brand manager.
“We started out as providing reclaimed wood to the building industry,” Loveland said, “but we’ve expanded to do furniture, custom projects and private label work. We work across the country. While we still do a lot of work in Western North Carolina, we’ve expanded our market throughout the country, which has helped a lot.”
Part of what Appalachian Antique Hardware has done is to look for the smaller niche markets, which pay less but are more plentiful.
“We’ve tried to make ourselves available for more volume through smaller purchases rather than solely relying on the large custom projects,” he explained. “So far we’re swimming along pretty good.”
In fact, the company recently hired four more employees, and the future looks good for even more growth.
“Our pipeline is full. We’re seeing expansion in all of the markets we’ve chosen to participate in. Our forecasts are looking good,” Guy said.
Green is key
Another point of pride for Appalachian Antique Hardwoods is that they produce many certified green products. From the beginning, the business has had a “green” bent because the wood was being recycled and repurposed, but the company has gone even farther, using a closed loop system for the sawdust produced, which ends up going to a compost operation. The company also donates scrap wood to local ministries for heating assistance.
“We were really kind of green before it became cool,” Loveland said, adding the company is up for the 2012 Community Pride Award.
And Guy is taking his dedication to the community one step further by offering an outreach program to students at nearby Bethel Middle School.
The program will allow 12 to 15 students per semester to shadow the company employees in jobs ranging from management and administration to design and manufacturing.
“My goal with that is to take the youth here in Bethel and show them that you can make a living here,” Guy said. “Haywood County is alive and well.”
For information, visit www.aahardwoods.com.