Rural Missouri - June 2016 - (Page 18)
From log to ﬁnished product,
Hardwood Xpress makes the
next generation's heirlooms
by Jim McCarty | firstname.lastname@example.org
im and Les Cardwell can quote you chapter and verse on the population decline in Knox County, which ranks 111th out of Missouri's 114
counties in number of residents. They sadly recall when the farm crisis
hit northeast Missouri with a vengeance, nearly killing once bustling
communities like their hometown, Edina.
But the two Lewis County Rural Electric Cooperative members never gave
up on their hometown. Today, people from all over the world ﬁnd tiny Edina
in person or on the Internet to order a host of personalized products from the
Cardwell's unusual business, Hardwood Xpress.
"I had a chance right out of school to go to the city and work," Les relates. "I
graduated in the early '80s. The economy was the darkest I've ever seen it. But Kim and Les Cardwell were looking to add value to the wood
this is where I wanted to live. We are fortunate to raise our kids in a place like products they create, so they invested in a laser engraving
this. I am proud of our community."
machine that can personalize just about anything.
Like most small business owners, the Cardwells had to weather another
downturn in the economy in 2008. They ran a logging and lumber business that took timber from northeast Missouri and
scale, their ﬁrst consideration is price. Here,
we try to go with quality ﬁrst and then ﬁgturned it into quality hardwoods.
ure out a way to make it at a good price."
When the crash came, they looked for something to add value
They also have imaginations that
to a seriously depressed lumber industry.
create lasting memories for their
"We still had a good market," Les says. "What happened, soft
customers. One example is their
maple and red oak went to half of its price. Instead of selling lumrecipe boxes. Lots of people make
ber way below market prices we decided to do it a different way.
these, designed to hold index cards
That's why we started this business."
with favorite recipes. But the Cardwells take a
Working for a time out of his basement, Les crafted unique items
beautiful wood box and then engrave a recipe on the lid in
from lumber he took from his own sawmill. It was a lot like every
Grandma's actual handwriting.
other woodworking shop with one big difference. The two bought a
Another big seller is the $30 baby blocks made from Missouri red oak. These
computer-controlled laser engraver that could be used to make every item percan include the baby's initials, date of birth and any image the customer wants.
sonal. The machine burns a precision image into wood and other materials.
Quickly, the business moved to the courthouse square in Edina. This let the Many families buy one of these blocks for the baby's birth, then continue them
two expand into large volume work. They also for just about every life event. "Really, it's a memory block," Kim says. "By the
added a second piece of equipment that time they are 18, they take their ﬁrst steps, they made their ﬁrst communion
ensured Hardwood Xpress could do what or maybe they were the fair queen."
The best sellers for the small-town business are breadboards, cutting boards
few others could - take on big orders
and keepsake boxes. These typically are made from hard maple or cherry and
without sacriﬁcing quality.
Here, you will see the band- are personalized with family names, logos or just about any image. "People say
saws, sanders and table saws they are too pretty to use," Kim says. "But everything we make is designed to
that are typical of most wood- be used. They will hold up well with normal use."
Another favorite is the name benches made for kids. These cost $50 and
working shops. But in one corner there's another machine feature large letters painted in bright colors that drop into the bench.
One of their best customers is Lewis County Rural Electric Cooperative.
the old timers might stare at in
wonder. It's a computer-con- Travis Mathes, manager of member services and government relations for the
trolled router capable of match- co-op, approached the Cardwells when he became frustrated trying to ﬁnd
ing any pattern with amazing American-made products to give away at the co-op's annual meeting.
"We wanted something that was not just made in the USA, but also in our
precision. It can even change
tools on its own to reproduce service area," he says. "I checked with them and they went above and beyond
what I was looking for. We did breadboards one year and the next year I asked
with incredible detail.
With Les creating the prod- for trivets. They worked four months coming up with that. It is great seeing
ucts and Kim adding the per- someone rejuvenating a community."
The business can make one item for you or it can turn out hundreds. They
sonal touches, Hardwood Xpress
gained a reputation as the place to routinely work with FFA chapters, churches and others that need something
go for quality products and custom- for a fundraiser. Many brides and grooms make a stop at the store in Edina to
ﬁnd gifts for their wedding parties. While the focus is on wood items, the Cardized orders.
So how has this business suc- wells also can personalize glass and metal.
"We like for it to be something they will give to a child, and they will give it to
ceeded when so many others have
fallen victim to overseas compe- their grandchild," Les says. "It's not throw-away stuff. We are making the next
tition? "The ﬁrst secret is it is all generation's heirlooms."
our own wood," Les says. "We have
Hardwood Xpress is located at 112 N. Fourth St. in Edina and is open Monaccess to the ﬁrst choice on lumber.
The next thing is, when most people day through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., or on Saturday by appointment. You
look at making a product on a large can call 660-397-2602 or order off the website at www.hardwoodxpress.com.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - June 2016
Rural Missouri - June 2016