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Jay Petre

Reclaimed WV Wood: Good for the Environment and Good Looking

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Renick, W.Va. – In a mill that’s tucked away in a rural corner of Greenbrier County, old barns are turned into gleaming hardwood flooring for customers throughout the country.

“We’re all about reclaimed wood. It’s good for the environment and it looks good,” says Jay Petre, the president of Renick Millworks.

Petre’s company has carved its niche producing sustainable products from recycled and reclaimed wood. Although Renick Millworks also makes custom timber materials, its reclaimed wood flooring gives the company a nation-wide presence to choosy, eco-minded customers.

“It is a trendy thing – and lucky for us the trends are rising. There is a lot of talk about reclaimed flooring on HGTV and home makeover shows. Overall, the public is becoming more aware about green options,” he said.

But not many companies in the United States manufacture this type of flooring; so, Petre’s customers come from all over the country – from the New England states to the West.

“There are a lot of floors today that are labeled ‘rustic,’ meaning they’re given ‘rustic characteristics.’ Whereas these floors have the rustic characteristics built in. They have the nail holes and the worm holes. They’ve been nailed on the side of a barn for 100 years!” he laughed.

Renick Millworks sources most of the wood from the Appalachian Region. It comes from old barns, old houses and old factories.

“I like wood – and I like old wood from a ‘uniqueness’ factor. I hate to see old structural buildings falling down and rotting into the ground. I think, ‘Oh, wow, that could be made into something nice.’

“From my point of view, I like the reclaimed wood because it has a lot of history to it. It has a story behind it. We can track where every floorboard came from -- whether it was an old barn in West Virginia or an old schoolhouse in Tennessee. It all has its own story,” Petre explained.

Why West Virginia?

Petre grew up in Monroe County, W.Va. He started working with reclaimed wood in 2001, just after getting out of school when he and his brother were doing dismantle and demolition work. In 2005, they moved one county north, to Greenbrier County, where they built their current facility.

Renick Millworks is owned jointly by Petre, his brother and their father. The senior Petre was not involved in flooring before his sons started the business, but his machine shop experience has come in handy with running the mill.

The Governor’s Guaranteed Workforce program came in handy, too.  GGWFP helped Petre access training grants to take his employees to the National Hardwood Flooring School in St. Louis, Mo. There, they learned advanced hardwood flooring techniques, including strict installation and moisture control parameters.

During the company’s growth over the past six years, Petre also worked with the Small Business Development Center’s Jim Epling, out of the Summersville office.

“Jim helped us access an Appalachian Regional Commission interest-free loan to pay down debt. He has been here multiple times to prepare our books to go to a financial institution with funding proposals. They SBDC has helped with QuickBooks training, too.”

The business coaching is paying off. In 2010, Jay Petre was recognized by the Small Business Administration as the “Young Entrepreneur of 2010,” a state-wide recognition.

Petre travels throughout the country and the region for his business. But he’s glad to be based in West Virginia because of the workforce and business environment.

“The work ethic is strong. West Virginians are known to be hard-working mountain people. Plus, the labor costs are workable here. In Virginia and Tennessee the labor costs are a good bit higher.

“West Virginia tends to be more of a business-friendly state. I’m all about governance to create safe working environments, but not about regulation to the extent that you can barely survive as a company. West Virginia is more easy-going. We’re not killed by regulation. I think that’s why companies are moving here,” Petre said.

Petre appreciates that West Virginia is centrally located between the north and the south. Petre can reach clients in most of the major metro cities on the East Coast within a six-hour drive or less. Meanwhile, the Greenbrier County airport is 15 miles away from Renick, so it makes it easy for Petre’s clients to visit him.

To impress key clients, Petre may take them to dinner at the Greenbrier Resort or in artsy downtown Lewisburg, recently voted America’s Coolest Small Town.

Petre and his wife live about a mile from the mill. They have a new baby boy, Riley. And the young family enjoys a great balance between life and work. Petre says he can’t wait to try out the new bicycle trailer they bought to tow Riley along their favorite parts of the Greenbrier River Trail.

“West Virginia is a great environment to raise a family. We’re only a mile from the Greenbrier River. We’re so close to Snowshoe Resort – and my wife and I love skiing. Then, we have the Greenbrier Resort, which is only 20 miles away. We do a lot of hunting. We go biking on the Greenbrier Trail. “Greenbrier County is pretty cool – there is just a lot of stuff to do.”

“West Virginia excels in natural resources. That’s our strong point!”

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