Beech Tree Woodworks rebounds from recession with new home, focus

VIDEO: Olympia-based Beech Tree Woodworks rebounds from the recession

Beech Tree Woodworks owner Nic James has seen his Olympia-based woodworking company resiliently rebound and grow from the last recession.
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Beech Tree Woodworks owner Nic James has seen his Olympia-based woodworking company resiliently rebound and grow from the last recession.

The story of Beech Tree Woodworks is the story of the Great Recession.

Several years ago, during the housing boom, Nic James was busy with what was then a home-based business with a similar name — the Beech Tree Building Co.

But then the recession hit and James – like other businesses in the country – had to make tough decisions, including reducing staff to the point that it was just him.

Post-recession, Beech Tree Woodworks, which produces high-end cabinetry and furniture, is back. It has a new location in Olympia, steady clients in the Seattle area and a new focus, wanting to become better known in South Sound to avoid some of the logistical challenges of driving to and doing business in the Emerald City.

“Business is good,” said James, 47.

Although James and the business have experienced change, some things haven’t changed. He remains committed to the environment by using only sustainably harvested wood. Part of that credo is spelled out on the Beech Tree website.

“We are committed to green building, using locally available wood products from ecologically-based forests,” James writes. “Our core belief encapsulates both a deep commitment to artistic design and to leaving the smallest footprint possible.”

James also takes pride in being certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Come the next recession, which hopefully isn’t anytime soon, James likely will be better prepared.

That’s because he has taken advantage of the business counseling services offered at the Small Business Development Center at South Puget Sound Community College’s Lacey campus. In the past year, he has tried to go as often as he can, he said.

“They have been nothing short of gold,” James said.

As the residential housing market perked up again – and the need for cabinets and furniture returned – James ran out of room at his home, so he sold it to help acquire a 6,000-square-foot building on Devoe Street in Olympia. His purchase closed in October.

The space is largely devoted to production, with some room for offices. A display room is planned, James said.

Meanwhile, the work continues, with the majority of it devoted to cabinets and furniture for residences, although James is open to more commercial work. They have done installations for South Sound Running, he said.

“We’re just a bunch of guys who like to work with wood,” said James about his crew.

Beech Tree Woodworks

Owner: Nic James

Location: 417 Devoe St. SE Olympia.

Years in business: 15

Type of business: Maker of high-end cabinetry and furniture, using sustainably harvested wood.

Employees: Eight, with plans to add more.


Advice to business owners: Write a business plan. And if you don’t know how to write one, get help. Don’t skimp on photography to show off your product or portfolio. James said he couldn’t quantify what professional photos have meant to his business, but he knows they have generated more leads.

Keep this date in mind: An open house for Beech Tree is set for April 22.

Did you know? In addition to attending The Evergreen State College, James studied fine woodworking at the College of the Redwoods in Northern California.