Photography by Blackbird Creative
It’s said often that we live in a “materialistic” culture, but that implies that we actually value material things. Our culture is less materialistic than it is disposable — instead of investing in material goods built to last, we buy cheap things and toss them when they inevitably break down.
Businesses like J. Parker Reclaimed Furniture are a counterstrike against disposability. Owner Jacqueline Parker’s beautiful, clean-lined creations are made from 100% reclaimed wood, and their durability and aesthetic appeal set them apart from big-box plywood desks and tables.
How’d you get started building furniture?
“My husband John and I traveled a lot, and we always seemed to end up in the countryside. I’m drawn to all things old, and old wood has all these beautiful lines and markings. I didn’t know how before we got started, but Google is a wonderful resource. There’s plenty of information out there, so I just made mistakes early on and learned from them. My mindset is to be constantly learning.”
How many employees do you have, and where is your shop?
We have two part-time and a couple full-time employees, and our shop and warehouse is in Laurel.
Where do your source your wood?
All of our wood is reclaimed from old buildings or antique stock. Initially we’d solicit owners of old structures, or individuals would seek us out with wood they wanted to sell. But at this point we have a healthy stockpile; we’ve actually had to turn down offers to buy wood.
What do you love about building furniture, using reclaimed wood specifically?
It allows me to express myself artistically. I don’t do any of the cutting (I’m actually afraid of saws), but I do most of the sanding and staining. Our design philosophy is ‘strength through simplicity’ — we build furniture that’s intended to last a lifetime or more.
How can folks buy or commission your work?
Currently we prefer for potential buyers to make appointments by calling us. They can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram, as we set up shop at various furniture markets in the area.
What are some of the challenges of making a living selling furniture?
It’s like any other small business — we work 70-80 hours a week. We don’t do any formal advertising, just social media and word-of-mouth. It’s hard work, but it’s very rewarding.
What’s your future plans for the business?
We’re working now on setting up a showroom in a beautiful building in downtown Laurel, built in 1909. We’ll still accept clients at the warehouse; people love to get a ‘backstage pass’ to select particular wood and see how their furniture is made.