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MADE: Making A Cut In Custom Woodworking

By Johanna F. Still, posted May 20, 2022
Anchor Hardwoods’ Erika Schmitt said the custom woodworking shop is a welcoming place. (Photo by Michael Cline Spencer)
From offering high-end custom woodworking to a popular scrap bin, Anchor Hardwoods caters to a wide spectrum of clientele.
 
A staple in the community for about three decades, the Wilmington custom woodworking shop also features a retail component – a unique feature that lures patrons of all skill levels.
 
“It’s kind of a novel niche that we have,” said Erika Schmitt, Anchor Hardwood’s lead designer and craftswoman. “What Anchor does, it reminds me of if you went to a restaurant and the cook is also the waitstaff.”
 
Customers can seek guidance from the shop’s woodworkers on how to carry out their own projects, or they can task the shop with crafting a specific vision. It’s a place where customers can mosey around and scout out ideas or one-of-a-kind finds.
 
“We can do as much or as little of someone’s project as they want,” Schmitt said.
 
The environment is inclusive, welcoming and friendly, she said, especially for those who aren’t already well-versed in the art of woodworking.
 
Located off Covil Avenue, Anchor Hardwoods features nearly 40 species of domestic and exotic hardwoods. Schmitt, who also acts as the shop’s buyer, said they try and track down species customers take interest in.
 
“I have sources in Africa, Australia, Central America. But I also work with local sawyers as well,” she said, adding that she has been exploring sustainable sourcing practices.
 
Soon, Schmitt said the shop will be a licensed hemp wood dealer, and it just got in its first mantles made from the plant’s pulp that is meant to mimic real wood.
 
Schmitt said she tries to steer customers to species that are sustainably grown and away from over-harvested strains like high-demand old-growth teak, which is in high demand for marine-related products because of its tight grain and waterproof qualities.
 
“If someone’s not building that, I don’t sell them that,” she said. “It’s something I do on my end because I care so much: guide people to more sustainable alternatives.”
 
Between much-sought-after live edge slabs and cheaper finds that make for more affordable projects, pieces at the shop run the gamut.
 
“My goal is to have the greatest selection of the most beautiful wood that I can get my hands on,” Schmitt said. “It’s a nice mix. I’ve got domestics, like poplar, that are very economical. There’s something here for everyone.”
 
Schmitt was brought on when the current owners purchased the business in 2010. Over the past 12 years, she said what’s helped the business thrive – other than its friendly atmosphere – has been its status as a small fixture in the community.
 
“I think being a small business allows you to be nimble. Because we are local, we’re not responding to corporate pressure, necessarily. We’ve got some homegrown roots here,” she said. “We can respond to trends really quickly.”
 
One of Schmitt’s favorite projects she worked on recently was an exquisite pair of sliding barn doors made with oak and glass panels. Conference tables, porch swings, countertops, beds, flooring, dressers – just about anything a customer can think of, the shop’s woodworkers can craft.
 
“There’s no rulebook here,” she said. “People come in with an idea and we build it.”
 
Many cuts and projects can end up on the finer end, though there are pieces available for as low as $1.
 
“The difficulty being a mom-andpop, brick-and-mortar store – the beauty and the difficulty – is that I pay my workers a living wage, and everything’s real wood. It’s not a particle board,” Schmitt said. “We’re kind of fighting the good fight here.
 
“There’s something here for everyone.”


ANCHOR HARDWOODS
18 COVIL AVE., WILMINGTON

Number of employees: 3
 
Year founded: 2010
 
Top local official: William Moore, managing partner
 
Company description: Anchor Hardwoods is Wilmington’s “friendly local hardwood shop,” according to lead designer and craftswoman Erika Schmitt, but even that description falls short of what the company encompasses, she said. The unique business model includes a retail side with nearly 40 species of exotic and domestic hardwoods customers can select themselves or with a helpful guide and a fully outfitted shop, offering the ability to build nearly anything. “It’s a laid-back atmosphere,” Schmitt said.
 
Products made locally: Anchor Hardwoods expert craftspeople can custom make just about anything, but specialize in countertops, bars, dining room tables, mantles, floating shelves, shiplap and wall paneling, doors, steel table legs, brackets, hardware and more.
 
Product distribution: The shop’s creations have been shipped all over the U.S. alongside its partner company, Riverwood Custom Tops. The two shops share a studio and the same crew of craftsmen. Still, Anchor Hardwood’s main focus is the greater Wilmington area.
 
What made the company decide to make its goods locally? Schmitt: “Well, aside from the fact the salty air and sea is in our DNA … Honestly, we strive to be the antithesis of Amazon. We are as homegrown and mom & pop as they come.”
 
What’s your target market? Schmitt: “It’s a diverse group: homeowners, architects, designers, DIYers, boat-builders and hobbyists – even the film industry.”
 
EDITOR’S NOTE: To be considered for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal’s MADE feature, contact [email protected].
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