By Margaret Jackson | Jan 02, 2021
Los Angeles, California
Angel City Lumber is transforming fallen trees throughout Los Angeles into lumber that can be used for furniture, artwork, flooring or just about anything else you can imagine.
Perry, formerly a carpenter and furniture maker, noticed a fallen oak tree in a park in Altadena, California, that had come down during a storm and thought he’d like to use it to create a furniture line that he could market as locally sourced.
But when he asked the park ranger if he could take it, he was denied. Ultimately, the tree was chopped up into small bits so it could be removed from the park, and Perry went to the lumber yard where he paid more than $9 a foot for the lumber he needed.
"The tree was beautiful," Perry says. "Coast live oak is a species endemic to this area."
That experience got Perry to thinking about all the trees that were being put into grinders and chopped up for mulch or buried in ditches. Through research, he discovered that there was a vast supply of tree logs that weren’t being put to another use when they were felled. He started calling around to different tree services to determine whether they’d be interested in having him haul off the trees they chopped down.
"They were all very amped about it," Perry says. "They love trees and hate having to dispose of them. Our mission now is to realign Angelenos with nature by manufacturing wood products from the trees we live with in our neighborhoods. It’s a reconnecting of people with nature.
"There’s just a disconnect between wood and trees," Perry says. "When people think of wood, they don’t necessarily think of a tree. They think of a board arriving on a flatbed. As time goes on, I think that we will realize that the trees in our neighborhoods are not just valuable because people want to get an urban canopy up in the sky so it saves energy and makes the air better. There’s a lot of room for us to think of trees as a living organism that we can make use of."
Challenges: The company primarily sells its products to people in the building industry such as architects, landscape architects and design studios, and Perry would like to form strategic partnerships with flooring companies. That goal has been challenging, though, because Angel City Lumber is so new. "Our marketing is nonexistent," Perry says. "It’s all word of mouth. I think we need the help of distributors."
Opportunities: When it first started, Angel City Lumber was getting about 1 percent of the trees that were felled in Los Angeles County, a slice of the pie that could easily be increased, Perry says. "There is ample opportunity to really localize the lumber industry and really use all the trees that are coming down as opposed to having them turned into mulch," Perry says. "We can really make a statement and really revolutionize a way that cities are dealing with their trees."
Needs: Increased awareness of how downed trees can be used as well as larger space and more capital would be helpful to Angel City Lumber going forward. "The demand has been surprisingly big," Perry says. "I feel like we’re just handcuffed a little bit with scale. There’s so much opportunity from a demand perspective. We just need more mills, the ability to store more trees, and more kilns to kiln dry."