Guest blog post: Sourcing a bar top [part one]

My friend Bill Fowler is soon to open a beer and wine retail shop in downtown Huntsville called Old Town Beer Exchange. While it’s not a bar, there will be a small bar inside and Bill is looking for something special. This will be no ordinary bar. The base will likely be made using sourced bricks so the top needs to accent this unique construction. For the next few posts, Bill will describe the process we go through to locate just the right piece.

I grew up in a retail family. My dad owned Bill’s Menswear and Bill’s London Transit here in Huntsville. My childhood was spent playing in and around the racks of clothes, mannequins and displays. Dad’s stores were always outfitted with interesting props and features that were often more of a draw for his customers than the clothing he sold. His stores often had animals. Yes, animals. A bird, a giant aquarium or an enormous fish pond (with waterfall). There were bear skin rugs, suits of armor, antique furniture and all sorts of things that helped to make his stores much more than just a place to buy clothing. They were expressions of an artist, really.

So when I called Jason looking for just the right piece of wood for the top of our bar, I had to explain all this to him. I had a responsibility to my dad’s memory to make this something beyond just a piece wood. We’ll sell high quality beer and wine, but we will also be an interesting place to be. Southern culture, craftsmanship wrapped in the character and history of our city… these are things that will help define what we offer our customers.

After our initial conversation, Jason suggested we take a ride to a local lumber warehouse that specializes in rare wood. I met Jason at the City Lumber and off we went. My thoughts were that the carpenter we’ve hired might be able to take some awesome pieces of wood and create something unique and special. I didn’t really know what I was looking for, but I figured I’d know it when I saw it.

At the warehouse we went on a guided tour of some of the most beautiful pieces of wood I’ve ever seen. I’m definitely not an expert on wood, but one stack of cut wood caught my eye. The black walnut. It was beautiful.


Still, it seemed very normal to me. I mean, it looked liked nice wood but not what I was after. Jason explained that a talented carpenter will take that wood and make a gorgeous piece of furniture or flooring. He agreed that it was beautiful wood, but it probably wasn’t unique enough for my bar top. It would certainly work, but I need something that’s more of a conversation piece. Beautiful AND interesting.

I explained this to Jason and he gave me few more suggestions, saying that he had a better understanding of my vision and would make a few more calls.

So, the hunt is on. I have about 10 days to figure this out and Jason is out front helping. We’ll find the right piece, I’m sure. I’ll write the next update in part 2 which I hope will include a visit to a local saw mill.

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