Newspaper Article Archive of
The Kalona News
Kalona, Iowa

Newspaper Article Archive of
The Kalona News

March 9, 2017 Featured - Home Improvement Section - Nate Swartzentruber
Article Pages -- as published on the The Kalona News website.

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Wellman resident creates unique items for the home

Back in the spring of 2015, Nate Swartzentruber was a vendor at The Barn’s spring event.

“Just from that one show I got a lot of interest and created a Facebook page and it’s just been word of mouth (since),” he said. “People just seeking me out to build stuff.”

It is still the only expo he has ever gone to.

Swartzentruber is the owner of Grizzly Green Designs and has been making custom furniture out of his garage over the last couple years. “I started building stuff because my wife wanted some things in the house, so I built a couple of things here and there,” Swartzentruber said. “Then a couple of friends who were in the woodworking industry thought it was neat and that I should sell some stuff.”

His wares are a mix of unique items and more standard woodworking fare, and each have their own pros and cons. Swartzentruber does incorporate some industrial grade steel work when projects call for it and does the occasional masonry project or painting job. His graphic design background is also a big part of the company.

However, it’s taking the older pieces of wood and repurposing them that really gets his creative juices flowing.

“I absolutely love doing the rustic style pieces. So, barn board, barn wood, any of the older stuff that’s real rough. I find more enjoyment working with that stuff,” Swartzentruber said. “It’s a little more forgiving.”

“It’s taking something that is old and aged for a hundred years and making it useful, practical. Part of it is knowing the history behind the wood, or guessing what it would be,” Swartzentruber said. “Barn wood’s becoming more and more rare. People are burning them down. My in-laws, they have a barn that’s coming down. They want to keep those memories alive.”

Swartzentruber has timed the start of his home business well as shows about repurposing the rustic has become more infused in the popular culture.

“I believe that just like everything else it’ll die out eventually, but while it’s still going I’ll take advantage of the opportunities that are around. There’s definitely a hype around it,” he said.

Swartzentruber still works with a mix of the rustic and more traditional woods for his projects.

“I’m a huge fan of making anything out of any of the hard woods, whether it be oak, or red elm, white oak, red oak, whichever it may be, but I really don’t have a preference of what to work with,” he said. “Even the simple lumbers, the pine and fir.”

The new wood does give him more flexibility than working with some of the more fragile barn wood.

Projects can span a couple weeks or a couple months, depending on the complexity of the projects and his own busy schedule. Swartzentruber balances his home business with a full-time job and a family.

Swartzentruber says he feels blessed to be a part of a community where working with your hands is so valued.

“Feedback I get from other people in the industry, just how to do things properly, because that’s what I pride myself on here is quality,” he said.

Despite the late nights and early mornings, his passion and the look on the faces of satisfied customers is what keeps Swartzentruber’s drive going.

“I love dealing with customers and talking to people. Half the fun for me is taking someone who, either they have a vision for what they want or they don’t, and I’m able to do sketches for people, rough drafts to show them, and taking bits and ideas and making something that I like and something I love.”

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