Grand Lake / Business: Home improvement store offers beetle kill wood products |

Grand Lake / Business: Home improvement store offers beetle kill wood products

Stephanie Miller
Grand County Homes and Properties

Grand Lake resident John Waller knows when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Or, when life gives you beetle kill, make something beautiful.

He has closed the doors on JR’s Chop House, a well-known bar and restaurant since 1946, which he and his son ran for the past five years. And on May 15, he held a grand opening for an entirely new endeavor.

Just off to the right hand side of U.S. Highway 40, a sign now reads: Grand Lake Home Improvement Center, where almost all of the store’s contents are provided by one of Mother Nature’s most hated pests, the mountain pine beetle.

Waller has been in the logging business for some time, and owns two sawmill

stations in Grand Lake. With the abundance of dead trees available, he has kept himself busy for the past few years cutting down and splitting up thousands of trees wiped out by the beetle.

Now, he’s taking his business to the next step. Instead of shipping the wood out of the county for someone else to use, the new home improvement store offers a variety of products made from the very trees Waller’s sawmills slice and dice. The store offers furniture, storage sheds, playhouses, swingsets ” even greenhouses. Nothing is wasted, Waller said, and even scraps are sold as firewood.

The entire store is designed with samples, and the flooring is different all the way around, Waller pointed out. That way, customers can see what a floor made of tongue-and-groove or carpeting looks like. There are also hand-crafted mantels and bar tops displayed this way.

“People can say, ‘Hey, I like that,'” Waller said. “You can see what you want to buy.”

Perhaps the best example is on the outside of the shop itself, which is lined with 11 different types of siding. Every 10 feet there’s a different sample ” such as wavy edge, bark slap, board and bat ” so customers can see with their own eyes what they’d like on their home or business.

Although the shop’s inventory is mainly made from beetle-killed wood, there are also other items such as uniquely crafted chase lounges and love seats made from Colorado River willow. The shop also offers wooden pellet stoves and pellets.

Custom orders are happily accepted, Waller added, so if a customer doesn’t find what they’re looking for, they can bring in a design of what they’d like and have it made at the shop.

“You can pull (the design) off the Internet, wherever you want. We’ve got the equipment,” Waller said.

The store’s new manager is Mikeleen Reed, a Grand Lake resident who is experienced in the flooring business and home design. Together, Waller and Reed are brainstorming what they think customers will want over the next few years.

Fencing, for example, may become more popular now that “we’ve taken all these trees down and there’s no privacy,” Waller pointed out. The shop is also getting a big shipment of bird foundations and offers hand-made bird houses “because we’re killing our bird habitat,” he added.

All in all, Waller has taken the devastation of the mountain pine beetle in stride by making it a profitable business. The home improvement store allows him to go “full-circle,” he said. “I like taking the trees down and processing them all the way through. It’s fulfilling.”

Although there’s nothing alluring about the devastation the mountain pine beetle has caused throughout Grand County, beetle-killed wood is beautiful, intertwined with blues and reds. People love it, Waller agreed, and it fits into most mountain home decors. Using the bountiful wood is also a tax incentive, he added. The state of Colorado offers tax credits for the use of beetle-killed timber.

So far, the Grand Lake Home Improvement Center has received a good reception from patrons, Waller and Reed said. They hope more people will come by and check it out. The store is still reminiscent of the old chop house, not having gone through its complete transformation quite yet; but Waller is clearly excited about the new business, even if he appears nonchalant.

“I could wholesale the wood out, but why not keep it here in the county?” Waller said, shrugging. “I have room to do everything, so I’m putting it to use.”

The Grand Lake Home Improvement Center is located at 10188 U.S. Highway 40. For more information, call (970) 627-9300.

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