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Photos Ashley Horne

Poppa’s Barn

by Chris Meehan on October 4, 2019, 04:04 pm MDT

www.poppasbarn.com

Menifee, California

Founded: 2016 (sister company Karmichael's Cabinetry: 1983)

Privately owned

Employees: 8

Industry: Built Environment

Products: Upcycled wood paneling and custom cabinetry

Co-founder Mike "Big Poppa" Petrich upcycles cedar fencing into eye-catching design elements. 

Petrich launched Karmichael's Cabinetry with his wife, Karla, after he left the Marines in the early '80s, combining his cabinet-making skills with her work in real estate to remodel kitchens with custom cabinetry. Poppa's Barn came much later, when he saw an opportunity to reclaim material and upcycle it.

It started with a seldom-used piece of equipment in the cabinetry shop and a happenstance drive by old, weathered fences in the country.

Petrich explains the two-part genesis. "We purchased a wire brusher for a specific cabinet job and it sat unused for a year or two and we thought it was ridiculous that we weren't using this machine," he says.

Then serendipity struck in the form of an old fence. "We loaded it in our truck and we brought it back to the shop and we straight-lined it, trued it, then we ran it through this wire brusher and that's how it all started," says Petrich. "We took it one step further and put a clear coat on it because anybody who looks at these awesome walls wants to touch them."

A friend soon connected Petrich with a fencing crew, and Petrich offered to pick up the old fencing material free of charge, reducing the fencing company's dump trips and expenses. "They text us photos of the fences they're tearing out and we make sure we can use it and pick it up," he says. "They're mostly dog-eared cedar fences. All of them would have been destined for the dump. Sometimes they're 50 years old."

Poppa's Barn now offers the reclaimed and finished wood product nationwide through Wayfair, an online home renovation store, as well as selling direct to consumer. The planks come in boxes of 21 square feet of wood that are ready to be finish-nailed to surfaces; custom finishes are available.

"Every piece is hand-processed one at a time because every piece has its own characteristics and you want to make sure you preserve that," Petrich notes. "We take the true reclaimed wood, custom-color it, and then run it through the brusher again and still maintain the authenticity of reclaimed wood."

The end result is a premium product, he continues. "It's boutique wood. It's a little higher end than probably what most people are going to go there for. It's not priced in a low-end, 'let's get it done' price. This is authentic stuff and a lot of labor goes into it." 

Poppa's Barn still gets the materials for free, but Petrich says he does pay some suppliers to keep the planks. "They stack them in their yard and we'll go by and pick it up. We offset the cost of them renting their yard."

The wood is gaining popularity. It's being used commercially, by chains like 85 Degrees C Bakery Cafe and Plant Power Fast Food, and in homes. 

Petrich doesn't see the upcycling as a trend or fad. He thinks it's the way of the future and has many applications. "Really when you think about it, you can clad anything in reclaimed wood," he says. Beyond wall paneling, the planks have been used for coffee tables, conference tables, and floating shelves.

It's Petrich's first foray into national sales. Most of the cabinetry work Karmichael's does is within three hours of its shop. 

While Karmichael's remains the larger of the two businesses, Petrich observes, "It's slowly being taken over by all of our reclaimed planks all over the place."

Challenges: "Probably the greatest challenge now is just going to be marketing because being a small mom-and-pop joint," says Petrich "We don't have a corporate marketing budget and things like that. It's a little different for us to move into that nationwide marketplace, but we're doing pretty good with it."

Opportunities: Petrich envisions a bright future: "We're just going to continue to grow the business and marketing and get the word out. We're talking to some people on some large commitments and it's exciting."

Needs: Real estate. "We're almost maxed out with our acre of commercial land, but it all goes back to sales," says Petrich. "It's all about networking with the right people. and building that and moving product."

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