As Dave Puncochar was fixing up his old Victorian home, he was intrigued by a niche subculture: the salvaging and repurposing of old wood. This art form takes underappreciated lumber and polishes it up to be used again for furniture, flooring, decorative accents, and more.
With a newfound admiration for the unique, weathered touch that reclaimed wood adds, Puncochar went on the hunt for unique pieces for his own home. But as he searched, he became frustrated by the disjointed customer service process when it came to traveling to the countryside, selecting trees, and coming to a set price for a one-of-a-kind piece. So he took matters into his own hands, and there begins the story of Good Wood Nashville, a boutique, one-stop wood shop—first born in Puncochar’s garage in 2012 and now a 15,000-square-foot showroom and lumber store just outside of downtown Nashville.
The process of procuring reclaimed wood can be rather tricky as it requires a lot of moving parts. Good Wood makes this process seemingly easy. Typically, reclaimed lumber is recovered from building deconstruction projects, such as old barns, factories, and warehouses. It is then used for a variety of commercial or residential purposes, such as wooden flooring, walls, or furniture. A $12.5 billion-plus industry, the reclaimed lumber market is steadily growing as the process of recycling old wood helps reduce landfill waste, is more environmentally friendly, and a growing number of consumers are attracted to the idea of bringing customized, authentic furniture pieces into their home.
Puncochar relayed his own frustrating experience as a homeowner after realizing there wasn’t a streamlined process for purchasing old wood to be made into furniture. “This is ridiculous. It shouldn’t be this hard,” he said. Puncochar channeled this frustration into building his own reclaimed lumber business. He started buying wood from lumberjacks in rural Tennessee or from people tearing down old barns and then sold them on Craigslist out of his garage. Since then, Good Wood has continued to grow and expand its customer base over the years, serving both homeowners and business owners who are searching for statement pieces to add to an office building, restaurant, or living room. The added element of great customer service contributes to Good Wood’s success, helping streamline the process and offering a more transparent and easy way for consumers to find pieces they love. “Just do what you say, do quality. Do what you say and say what you do, you know?” Puncochar says.
Good Wood has also managed to overcome serious hardship. In early March this year, just before the outbreak of the pandemic, Nashville faced another devastation when several tornadoes tore through the city. The campaign “Nashville Strong” was launched in efforts to raise awareness and relief funds. With his compassion for the community and meticulous wood working skills, Puncochar pioneered several Nashville Strong projects, including customized “tornado furniture” made with wood repurposed wood from fallen trees and plaques engraved with the words “Nashville Strong.”
We sat down with Puncochar to talk about how he got started in the wood business, his personal experiences during the hardships of 2020, and the overall strength of the Nashville community.
Nashville has been hit especially hard this year, starting with the tornados. How would you describe that experience?
It sounded like gunshots—like my house was getting shot at, which must have been hail or glass and debris. I got out of bed with bare feet, and there was already glass on the floor. We have an old 1950s blue bathroom that has no window anymore—I put the kids in the old steel bathtub, and we finally shut the door and were waiting. I don’t know if it was just a couple minutes or an hour. I have no idea.
My daughter says, “Dad, do you think my favorite climbing tree would be okay?” She named her tree Beth. I said, “Of course honey. I mean, that’s a huge tree.” We walked out, and it was just down. She started bawling, and I started bawling. It was just crazy.
My daughter asked me a day or two later, “Dad, can you turn my tree into a side table for me?” So then we started saying, let’s save a bunch of these tornado trees and make “tornado furniture.” I started going around with spray paint and writing: Do not chop up, do not haul away. Now I’ve got a yard that I rented up in Nashville. I’ve got probably 50 or 60 trees and logs that came down in the tornado that we’ve saved. The first round of trees are going to come back from the kiln next week. It takes about six months to a year from when you mill a tree to when you can build furniture with it.
How did your passion for wood work turn into a business?
It started as a side hustle and a hobby. My buddy, who was an entrepreneur, told me to just save your cash and keep your day job as long as you can. Don’t be in debt—have your cash.Don’t buy the trucks and the T-shirts. All that stuff will come. Just keep it simple.
So I got a warehouse, then it just started going. Everything got so busy that I got to the point of either having a heart attack or a break. Giving good customer service was so important for Good Wood, but I also had a day job that I had to honor.
It got to the point where I was like, okay, something’s got to give. So I quit my day job. I was scared. I was like, let’s just do it. Let’s try and see what happens. I’ve been running ever since. It’s been eight years plus.
How have you been able to navigate Good Wood through these difficult times as both a business owner and a Nashville citizen?
I have never rolled up my sleeves and been more engaged in my company than I have this year. If I’m going down, I’m going down swinging. Three years ago, I bought my building for my company. I’ve got all these employees and all these bills to pay. I remember thinking to myself, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to go bankrupt. I’m gonna lose it all.”
That day, I remember when my buddy called me. We had the idea to do something to help others. It was the first time that my fear left. It was the idea of doing something and not focusing on myself. There’s an old Bible verse that says something like, “Perfect love drives out fear.” It always sticks with me. Because I was trying to love my neighbor, the fear dissipated. Something clicked in me that day and in a good way. Let’s get my eyes off myself. Let’s not worry about going bankrupt. Again, if we’re going down, we’re going down swinging. Let’s see if we can help others.
How have you taken part in the Nashville Strong campaign?
One of my customers is a restaurant owner. We do wood walls, funky floors, build their dining tables. There are a few restaurant owners who have been loyal clients of mine for eight years. I called one of my buddies, who’s the client, and I said, “How’re you doing?” He was like, “Man, I’m not doing well. I gotta lay off 85% of my staff tomorrow.” I’ve never heard him down. I’ve never heard him talk that way. My heart broke, and I was like, I want to do something to help. We’ve talked about making cutting boards with each restaurant’s logo in them and selling them and giving money from the sales to the restaurant.
Another buddy of mine from a company called Statement—they do branding and graphic design. They had come up with these Nashville Strong images when the tornado hit. While we were at home, it nearly destroyed the whole house, but we saved it. It’s not enough to tear it down, but he came over to spray paint Nashville Strong on it. We started thinking, what if we did a Nashville Strong sign from his designs? So he gave me this design for free. We started making yard signs and plaques and huge 4×8 sheets of plywood signs that you could put on your company’s wall—you pay us $50 for a yard sign, and we’ll give away $25 to whoever you say.
How was that campaign pivotal for Good Wood’s success?
We had never sold anything on our website before because people [physically] come in and buy wood to make custom furniture. So [after selling on] our website, we were like, holy sh*t, looking at the sales. And then the news put us on a few times. Reed Public Relations said, let’s help you with this campaign because we love it, we’re behind it, we think it’s an awesome way to talk about doing good. So they helped us find different people and social influencers to help us promote the story. We had a couple of famous customers already, just because it’s Nashville, and people are nice. So I reached out to a few of them and asked if they would help spread the word. A lot of people just shared the word for us out of the goodness of their heart. We’re doing this to help other people, so it was just really cool. We sold over $50,000 worth of signs and gave away half.
Also half of my team [normally] goes out into people’s homes doing installs. When March hit, everybody hit pause on everything. The Nashville Strong signs helped us because I could put a lot of my workers on the signs, close our doors to the public, and work safely in our own wood shops.
How did this tornado relief campaign continue to support the community during the pandemic?
I think a lot of things are working together for small businesses right now. People started realizing how important it is to shop local and support local because they watched their neighbors get out of work. If there’s a time where people finally understand that shopping local matters, it’s now. That’s been huge.
We earned a lot of good will within the community and a lot of good PR. A lot of people are reaching out to us for custom furniture. I think too, not because of karma, but the idea that people want to help and they want furniture. They know who we are. We receive so many inquiries each week of people who want to work with us and reach out to us. It’s a gift.