In grade school, we learned that you can determine a tree’s age by counting its rings.
Another way to look at a tree’s history is to imagine what was happening around it as the tree grew from seedling to sapling to maturation. Picture a red oak with its wide branches and pointed green leaves providing cover to a Potawatomi hunter in the 1600s. In the 1800s, a German immigrant chops the tree down to build a barn. In the 2000s, the barn has come to the end of its days, but those same oak planks still have life.
The mission of Heritage Beam and Board is to “continue the story” of such wooden pieces. The Elkhorn-based company uses wood reclaimed from barns, former factories and other old buildings to create flooring, accent walls, doors, mantels and custom furniture for individual and corporate customers.
It All Began with an Old Barn
In 2009, two longtime friends, Adam Krauklis, a drywaller by trade, and Seth Hanson, who claims to have been a carpenter “for 110 years,” wanted to build some furniture. A friend of Krauklis offered them the wood from his barn—as long as they did the dismantling themselves. With the first treasure trove of old wood, Hanson began crafting unique furniture pieces and selling them at flea markets, including the Randolph Street Market in Chicago and the Kane County Flea Market in Illinois.
As sales increased and the custom orders began flowing in, Krauklis’ wife Emily began helping out with marketing and pricing. By 2014, the trio had already dismantled 16 barns. Now, a decision loomed over them. “[We had to decide] whether to make something of what had been a side business, or give it up,” Hanson explains.
Adam Krauklis opted to continue with his drywalling business, while his wife Emily joined Hanson to form the business partnership that is Heritage Beam and Board.
In the six years since, the business has become “like a locomotive,” Hanson says.
“We have to keep throwing coal on it,” Emily Krauklis elaborates.
Their first challenge was to figure out their target market and pricing. With a background in graphic design, Krauklis helps clients think through their projects. The business partners keep up a constant dialogue.
“It’s a lot of trial and error, not a formula,” Hanson says. “A shared vision happens over time.”
According to Krauklis, Heritage’s reclaimed wood appeals to clients with a range of tastes, from Wisconsin Northwoods to contemporary. Using the right kind of wood can “add warmth, grit, and earth to any project,” she says.
For example, local clients who own a second home in Florida might want a bit of Walworth County in their beach cottages. Or, the wood could be used to complement the decor in a modern Chicago high-rise.
For some clients, the wood’s backstory is what drives the decision.
Fox NFL Sunday co-host and former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, bought a bar from Heritage’s floor because he was inspired by the piece’s history. The bar, now installed in Bradshaw’s Oklahoma ranch, was created from barn floorboards removed from gangster Meyer Lansky’s farm getaway in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
From Start to Finish
When Hanson reclaims wood from an old structure, he inspects it for nails, cleans it and bakes it in a kiln at 135 degrees for seven days. After baking, he organizes
the wood by type and stores it in inventory until it is needed for a project.
Now a nine-person company, Heritage has two locations. Heritage South occupies a leased barn on Loveland Road in Elkhorn. The two-story structure has a showroom downstairs and a meeting place for clients upstairs, where they can gather with Hanson and Krauklis around a table constructed of wood from the former Waal’s Department Store in Walworth. Pieces on the showroom floor serve to give clients ideas, Krauklis says, but most of Heritage’s work is custom designed.
Once customers approve drawings and put down a deposit, the clients are free to choose the materials. Given Heritage’s vast selection of wood, all of it with a story, settling on materials is often the hardest part, Krauklis says.
The offices, warehouse and the workshop are located at Heritage North, a farm that lies “through that field, around those woods, and through another field,” Hanson says, pointing out of one of Heritage South’s large windows.
When a project is finished, Heritage offers installation anywhere within a 75-mile radius of Lake Geneva.
Recognition and Rewards
At Heritage, involving the client in the creative process is important. Whether a kitchen table design or the choice of wood for a family room’s tongue-and-groove flooring, the goal is for a piece or project to represent the client.
“That was so much fun!” one client told Hanson and Krauklis when the project was complete.
It’s no wonder Heritage Beam and Board has gained a national reputation.
The small company has crafted a number of pieces, including a cocktail table for the outdoor living area, for a Marco Island project that was featured in Home & Design Magazine.
When call volume increases at Heritage, Hanson and Krauklis know that a rerun of House Hunters Renovation, featuring a custom table and bench the company built for a Chicago home, has just aired on HGTV. The episode serves as an electronic referral, and as Krauklis says, “referrals are our rewards.”
Of course, there are other places to see Heritage Beam and Board’s completed projects. The company’s newly updated website features a portfolio of furniture pieces and larger installs, including bars, ceiling beams and full wood ceilings.
With a visit to the French Country Inn on Lake Como, prospective customers can also see the booths, copper bar tops, salvaged maple floors and ceiling that Heritage created. Krauklis says that the company was also “highly involved in choosing the fixtures, wallpaper and window treatments.”
In the future, Hanson and Krauklis hope to do more customized design builds and interiors.
“We’re pushed by our clients to do new things,” Hanson says. New things that, as Krauklis adds, they are “not afraid to tackle.”
By Susan W. Murray
Photography by Aliza Baran