Carving memories around masterpieces

James Smith is reminded that God is the ultimate Creator every time he walks into his garage.

“Not only is there a physical satisfaction when you see what you have made, but also spiritual one,” he said.

It all started when the 2009 alumnus decided to look for a job after graduation. After being in Oklahoma City for a while, he decided to move back to Rogers to be closer to loved ones until he figured out what he wanted to do next. Two things were certain: he did not want to do something short term, and he instead wanted to make something people wanted and sell it for profit.

What came next sprouted in 2011 after stumbling upon images of distressed furniture on Pinterest, a popular website. After admiring the simplistic style, Smith convinced himself that he too could create such beautiful pieces

So while unemployed and only having taken a couple woodworking classes in high school, he went to the nearest hardware store and came back with $120 of wood supplies.

“I began to think this was way over my head, but went through with the idea,” he said with a laugh.

With the help from the internet he got to work and began crafting what soon would become a coffee table. He listed it on Craigslist, and although the table did not sell for a while he began to receive emails from locals requesting other types of furniture to be built.

“That’s when I realized that there is a big void in the market for real wood furniture with a trendy design,” Smith said.

Things soon changed when he became employed in October and began creating apps for mobile phones. At that same time former student James Eldridge noticed the pictures of Smith’s finished products on Facebook and became interested in what he was doing.

Though they knew each other through mutual friends, Eldridge, who is currently finishing his nursing degree, reached out to Smith and wondered if he could tag along with the projects.

“From the beginning [Eldridge] was in it for the fun and not money,” Smith said.

Knowing he would need help, the pair teamed up to build anything from night stands to dining room tables, thus creating a small business known as Carpenter James.

Today the business exists to meet the needs of the people in northwest Arkansas by providing attractive real wood of furniture with prices starting under 100 dollars. Handcrafted using pine and white wood and finished with a stain, no two pieces are guaranteed to be the same.

Both agree that the number one importance when building tables is integrity. That is why each piece of furniture undergoes the “James” test, which consists of both men standing on the tables and testing the structure for sturdiness.

Eldridge said though January and February are usually considered slow months, their business is going great. He also said one of the partial reasons behind the business being picked up so quickly has to do with the power of social media.

“During the building process we will take pictures and post them [on Facebook] to show the customer the progress of their order,” Smith said.

“[The customers] will then comment on it and share it with all their friends.”

Though neither of them plans to quit their jobs, they hope to expand their business and bring in more help as a type of ministry.

At the end of a work day both agree that the biggest reward when getting home from work is spending time outside in the garage.

“I remember growing up and memories being created around our dining room table,” Eldridge said. “It’s really neat to know that we are creating the centerpieces around people’s lives.

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