Reclaimed wood & millwork company owners share what makes Wilkes perfect for business
By Nicole Haase
People throughout the country are using products with roots right here in Wilkes county, although they may not know it. nationally recognized companies like Lowe’s, Church & Church Lumber and Garnder Glass Products now have national reach, but they all started in Wilkesboro as small family businesses and grew to become industry leaders.
The success of these companies has made the Wilkesboros well known in the building industry, and they are now home to several industry-adjacent businesses experiencing success.
Jim Shepherd, managing partner at Revient Reclaimed Wood, grew up in nearby Elkin, but he still wouldn’t have started his business in Wilkesboro if it wasn’t the perfect location, he says. Situated near the intersection of Interstates 40 and 77 and within 400 miles of 11 major U.S. cities, the Wilkesboros are in prime position to do business on a national level while still maintaining their small-town roots.
“The business operates in a small town, but the town has a big business mindset – a national business mindset. We reach other markets, but we’re doing it still living in paradise,” Shepherd says.
He also adds that the area’s almost endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, access to big-city amenities, small-town cost of living and feeling of community help Revient attract talent.
“It just really is the Garden of Eden here between the Brushy Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s really a protected valley, and it’s just a great place to live and play,” he says.
But the area isn’t just attractive because of the scenery. Todd Meade, president and CEO of ECMD (once known as Easy Coast Millwork Distributors) says it’s no surprise businesses have flourished here in the foothills of the Brushy and Blue Ridge mountains.
“A big part of it is the culture of the area, steeped in the foothills of mountain culture. We get great labor here,” he says. “They have a work ethic that fits the industry and what we need to do.”
It’s part of the ethos and way of life here, Meade says, adding that most of ECMD’s employees are local, which helps foster a family atmosphere that’s great for employee happiness and retention.
“We treat our employees like family, and they treat the company well. We look at all our employees as a large family group. Everybody looks after everybody and takes care of everybody. That’s part of the mountain culture and community (here),” he says.
The area is incredibly attractive for business owners thanks to low labor costs, economic incentives, an incredibly active chamber of commerce and an economic development commission committed to keeping the town thriving, Shepherd says.
Having a national and global reach while still being connected face to face with many of his business associates is important to Shepherd. Many of his customers are from out of state, across the country in California and Colorado, and he does much of his business online. That may be why being able to shake hands and make business-to-business connections here in the Wilkesboros appeal to him so much.
But it’s not just about personal preference. It’s also good for business. When he rented warehouse space from Scott Nafe, he had no idea they’d become partners in the business. Or that Nafe’s background in furniture and cabinet making would open more avenues for Revient. The simple act of renting space for his business opened up a whole array of opportunities, and that’s exactly the kind of local-level networking that makes the Wilkesboros so special, Shepherd says.
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