Urban Ashes – Reclaiming Wood & Lives

8bsR5DxnPatriot-Made Audio’s current podcast feature (one of  two) is about Urban Ashes, which is an Ann Arbor, Michigan company who takes diseased or damaged wood from from urban area trees andReclaimFrame2 mills to make beautiful hand-made goods including ready-made photo frames, custom frame moldings, home goods, custom-made furniture, and custom-designed products.
As you’ll learn from our two podcasts in this series about Paul Hickman (click here), the President and founder of Urban Ashes, the company is proud to recycle lives as well.

Urban Ashes is built upon the belief that too many of our natural resources and human lives are wasted.  Their commitment to reclaiming these lost resources and lives enables us to create a collection of hand-made goods that tell a uniquely human story to pass down generations.

Reclaiming Natural Resources

Since 2002, the Emerald Ash Borer beetle has destroyed between 50 and 100 million Ash trees in at least 15 states and two Canadian provinces.  The blight threatens to destroy most of the approximate seven billion Ash trees growing throughout North America.  While the Ash tree is the impetus behind the Urban Ashes name, their frames are not limited to Ash wood alone.  Urban Ashes uses a wide variety of domestic urban wood species that are often discarded as waste wood.

And, such waste wood is all to often left for public works departments to simply dump and or burn the lumber. Most lumber mills won’t work with wood from trees from your backyard, or that have been cut down from the “county strip” in front of a suburban home. That’s because the wood grows at odd angles and twists and turns. It’s not so easy to work with. But, Urban Ashes does work with that wood.


In 2008, Furniture Designer Paul M. Hickman set out to design a product that would increase the utilization of urban salvaged wood. 2detoitdenailedbldgsHickman says that de-nailed wood from blighted and abandoned homes in Detroit is also reclaimed and reused.  To support their efforts and to find a store location that sells reclaimed wood from Urban Ashes click here.

Reclaiming Human Lives

Urban Ashes draws their employee base from Michigan’s transitional or disabled workforce. Hickman says that they employ former prisoners who are returning to society after spending years “on the shelf,” or locked up. While they’re at Urban Ashes they learn a lot about what it takes to re-enter society including; getting to the job, maintaining a job; getting the skill sets they need to do a job and rebuilding credit and other forms of a reputation.  Now it is also producing home goods and furnishings for businesses, such as tabletops made from reclaimed wood for restaurants.

Urban Ashes Latest News

Urban Ashes has hired five people over the last year to keep up with its production, including four ex-felons. It is also looking to hire two people to add to its staff of seven employees.  They are all striving to keep product in the company’s  225 retail locations across North America. The 6-year-old business consolidated its operations into one building adjacent to the home of Leon Speakers on Ann Arbor’s south side. It now has 3,000 square feet of work space and a symbiotic relationship with Leon Speakers to help it grow its business.  “Now it’s all in-house (manufacturing) and in one location,” says Paul Hickman, founder of Urban Ashes.


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