According to Bill Breedlove, Juniper Industry Facilitator: "One of the main reasons we've made so much progress over the last few years is Mike Connolly's interest and commitment to creation of a new industry centered on western juniper."
Mike Connolly has been involved in hardwoods distribution and millwork most of his life. He started his own hardwoods manufacturing plant in Bend in 1991, supplying hardwood products to industrial accounts, such as Pozzi Windows and Beaver Coach.. He later expanded the business to include a wholesale distribution center in 1994, but closed that portion of his business early 1997 to concentrate on manufacturing. Ten percent of Connolly Wood Products' business now involves manufacture of juniper products for wholesale and retail distribution.
Over the last five years Mike estimates he has run about 60 MBF of juniper into literally hundreds of different products. Connolly Wood Products' current juniper product line consists of cabinet parts, interior passage doors, a small amount of flooring, store displays, and blanket chests.
Connolly Wood Products is equipped with a Weinig moulder, 54-inch sander, 28-inch planer, vertical band saw, straightline rip, single-opening hot press, and about eight shapers. The company has nine employees, with at least two devoted to the juniper product line. Mike's wife, Linda, actually owns the business and one of his daughters, Colleen Kine (CMK Design, Bend), produces his marketing materials.
Based on his experience, Mike says: "Think of what you can make with pieces three foot or under, and keep the wood away from high speed industrial equipment, like moulders."
Mike jokes: "I used to own Connolly Wood Products before I stared experimenting with juniper, but now my wife Linda does!" "Seriously, we've made a corporate commitment to grow the juniper portion of our business from its current 10% to 30% over the next year or so." "We expect the juniper industry to grow to a $25-$50 million a year industry within the next five to 10 years, and we plan to be in on the groundfloor."
Mike just announced that Connolly Wood Products will open its first western juniper specialty retail outlet in Bend this winter, called Juniper Notions. Mike said the store will carry a full line of juniper products made by Connolly Wood Products, as well as juniper products made by small manufacturers (on a consignment basis).
According to Mike: "There is some distrust of juniper - it has a poor image with many consumers." "The only way they know about it is as firewood." "It's been my experience though, as soon as people see things made from it, and get to touch and feel it, they go nuts about it!"
Mike plans to help small juniper producers refine their products for sale in his store, and will make available kiln-dried, surfaced material that Connolly Wood Products cannot use in its own products. Mike also says his company will provide millwork services, such as resaw and sanding, to juniper producers who lack those capabilities.
"I'm interested in growing a juniper industry, and a retail center is needed to kick-start things," says Mike. "If things go we as expected, the Bend store will just be the first of many Juniper Notions stores in the future."
Mike encourages potential suppliers to contact Bill Breedlove, Juniper Industry Facilitator, or himself, if they are interested in selling unique, manufactured juniper goods through the Juniper Notions store.
For More Information: Bill Breedlove, Juniper Industry Facilitator (541/850-4317) or Mike Connolly, Connolly Wood Products (541/385-8641).