Urban Ashes uses cast-off pieces of wood to make high-end picture frames.
HOLLAND, Mich. (WZZM) - An up-and-coming Michigan business is manufacturing from the ground up.
Brighton-based Urban Ashes is turning dead or dying trees into picture frames. Just this month, the company's products made it to the lakeshore.
For Paul Hickman, a tree is rarely just a tree. If its dead or dying, it could be his next picture frame.
"When that tree is coming down and it's just going to be mulched or go into a landfill, only half of its life was lived," says Hickman, owner of Urban Ashes. "I look at it and go, 'Okay, how do you extend its life?'"
Urban Ashes broke ground three years ago and has thrived in unlikely places, like during the aftermath of a major tornado in Dexter this year.
"There were over 5,000 trees that came down," says Hickman. "We were able to salvage about 30 of those."
Urban Ashes makes use out of wood that other companies don't want. Hickman's workforce is also overlooked -- two non-profit groups supply employees who are disabled or out of jail.
"These are people that walk out with a paycheck that the average American or person would look at it and go 'really?' These people are ecstatic they're productive and getting compensated for it," says Hickman.
Hickman says he could turn the same amount of wood used for $50 worth of mulch into several hundred picture frames, equalling $3,000, and employ half a dozen Michigan workers.
Urban Ashes has expanded to 30 retailers in seven states and now the lakeshore as well.
"Our consumer loves anything that's made in Michigan and with reclaimed pieces, says Diana Timmer, owner of Three Chairs Company in Holland.
"Michigan was considered the furniture capitol of the world for a long time, and it's kind of fallen onto the back burner," says Hickman. "It's really nice to try to bring some of that manufacturing base back here."
Hickman admits the frames can have high prices, but he says unlike other brands they'll last a lifetime.
"You're going to have it for two or three generations. One of the things I like to say is I want your grandkids to fight over this," says Hickman.
The picture frames range from $35 to $68 each. You can find stores that carry Urban Ashes products at their website.