The Beginnings of an Exotic Wood Empire

First, let me take a moment to thank you for coming to our blog. We are beginners at this hip technology, so please bear with us!

Our main goal is to share insight into the fantastic world of exotic wood and our travels around the world to find it. To get you up to speed on who we are and how we came to be involved in this, here’s a short history our company, West Penn Hardwoods, Inc.

My husband, Rocky and I met in New York City and after getting married in 1993 we decided to move to Olean, New York to be closer to my family. Rocky is originally from India and emmigrated to the USA in 1991. Coming to Olean was a challenge, as neither of us had jobs here. Rocky had always wanted to own his own business. My father is a domestic lumber wholesaler and exporter. He recommended that we start a retail store where hobbyists and craftsmen could buy lumber with no minimums. When we started in March 1995, we carried only the basic domestics, like Cherry, Maple, Walnut and Oak.

Soon after starting, Rocky came to me and said he would like to buy $10,000 worth of Quartersawn White Oak. I thought he had gone insane! To spend that much money on just one type of lumber was a huge risk with our savings. He just said, “Trust me”, so I did. He was able to sell that lumber very quickly and with a nice profit. I have not questioned him since!

We started carrying curly and quartersawn material in all the domestic species. We even added some that were both curly and quartersawn! The next venture was to add exotic lumber. We started out with the basics like Purpleheart, Yellowheart and Cocobolo. It seemed the more crazy material we added to our product list the more customers loved it. We added figured exotics and are always looking for new and wild species to add.

Soon after that, a vendor asked us if we would like to buy some turning stock. We didn’t know what this was, but after doing some research we realized that wood turning is the second largest hobby in the country. Turners are also a little crazy (and I say that with a smile and love in my heart!) in that they are also wood collectors. They may have a garage full of wood, but if they see something they have never turned they have to buy it. One day in the future they will decide what beautiful project will come out of the piece. They are also some of the nicest and happiest people I have ever met…so kudos to the turners of the world!

That brings you up to date with our ventures. I will be focusing future posts on topics like places Rocky has travelled to, some of his experiences with different cultures, new and exciting species we are importing and projects made by our customers with our wood. I am open to any topic you can recommend as well. Be sure to leave me a comment!

Once again, thank you for taking the time to read all of this. Watch for posts about once a week!

Kim Mehta
“The World of Exotic Woods”