Manomin Resawn Timbers has many of the characteristics of a company that might face troubled times in the current recession: A small enterprise catering to speciality orders in the construction business.
Instead, owners Mark Clasen and Sarah Londerville said they've found continuing success by offering something special: They are one of the few businesses in the Twin Cities that reclaims old wood and designs custom floors, panels and furniture.
Based in Hugo for the past six years, Manomin Resawn Timbers is also the only company in Minnesota that sells Kauri wood, a rare, ancient breed of wood found and harvested in New Zealand. The trees are specimens that typically lived more than a thousand years before being felled by natural causes in a swampy area, where they were preserved underground for as long as 50,000 years before being discovered.
Manomin works with the sole importer into the United States, Robert Teisberg, the owner of Ancient Wood, and recently showcased a single giant Kauri slab worth more than $100,000.
"It should be in a museum. It's something that's very special," said Clasen. Carbon dating estimates the Kauri wood is between 30,000 and 50,000 years old.
The company envisions the 40-foot slab as a giant conference table that could seat about 80 people.
Manomin has stocked the Kauri wood since March, and filled about eight orders so far. Londerville said the most common woods Manomin works with start at about $7.65 per foot, but the price of the Kauri is much higher because of its rarity.
Repurposing old wood is a green process, Londerville said. Even the sawdust created in the workshop is reused.
The company also acquires timbers from old buildings like factories and barns, and sometimes clients come with their own source of wood for the company to reclaim.
A member of Manomin's staff treats each piece by hand, removing nails and staples before the wood is dried slowly in a giant kiln to remove the moisture.
Londerville said the reclamation business began in 1996 as a way to help with filling custom orders. "People kept asking for more items," Clasen said of the company's foray into fireplace mantels and furniture. "It evolved into you name it, we can make it."
Now, Manomin fills about 1,000 orders per year, a number that has held steady even through tough economic times.
"We're fortunate. Because of the uniqueness, we've been able to maintain [sales numbers]," though total volume of sales is down, Londerville said.
That's because average project sizes have decreased during the past few years, she said. Manomin also closed its installation business three years ago in response to the shift in demand.
Installations formerly accounted for about 30 percent of the business, Londerville said. Total sales have continued to slide about another 10 to 15 percent, she said.
The Manomin showroom also features a pair of antique doors imported from China, and the stockyard houses oak and elm timbers from factories and barns from the late 1800s and early 20th century.
"We have a lot of history out here," Londerville said.
Emma L. Carew • 651-735-9749