Start-up Creates Wooden Décor that’s Minnesotan Through and Through

In 2012, Mike Pavelko was faced with a stack of wooden pallets and a request from his wife to create a unique piece of DIY art for their basement bar.

He obliged, and a rustic Minnesota-shaped cutout design was a hit at home—and also among countless friends and family members, who began requesting similar pieces. Pavelko posted the design on a Facebook garage sale group, and he received 80 orders. The part-time hobby developed into a full-fledged, Waconia-based business in 2014. ReclaiMNed now has four employees, a successful online store and wholesale accounts with Herberger’s, Patina, Kittsona, Board & Batten and other shops across the Twin Cities and nation.

Pavelko, owner and lead designer for the ReclaiMNed brand, buys many of the materials from a Chanhassen-based contractor who salvages wood from old barns. The reclaimed wood is not just more environmentally friendly; each piece has a unique color and shading, tells a different story and adds a level of interest to a design. In one recently-dismantled building in Carver, the team found German newspapers dating back to the 1930s and one newspaper from 1908. “Franz was here” was discovered, scribbled on a wall. “We’ve found family trees on walls, too,” Pavelko says. “Any time I get cool details in the wood, I make sure they’re used in the piece.”

During the holidays, most requests are for personalized pieces, including specific state- or lake-shaped cutouts, painted shiplap-style flags or customized family trees. Wedding accessories—like back-of-the-chair signs or monogrammed guestbooks—are in demand during the spring and summer. During the rest of the year, the team focuses on fulfilling wholesale, bulk orders. Every one of them is handmade from reclaimed, local wood.

While the business has become more routine in the past few years, there are still unique challenges to creating one-of-a-kind elements from one-of-a-kind pieces of wood. The team was once asked to create an 8-foot by 6-foot world map, which would be the focal point of a client’s dining room. “It took up almost the entire wall,” Pavelko says. “We had to piece it together in a certain way—and then figure out how to transport it.”

Sarah Bowles, Pavelko’s sister, moved back to the Twin Cities and joined the team in 2015 to handle marketing, project management, sales and social media for the growing company. She enjoys the opportunity to think creatively and help specific, sometimes-quirky requests come to fruition. “It’s really fun to connect with people that have an idea for a project and help it come to life,” Bowles says. “Then to see the finished project in their house or at their wedding—that’s really neat.”
 
Seeing the brand expand into prominent national and local retailers has also been exciting for the tight-knit team. “It's always fun to stop by stores where we have our products and see people looking at, talking about and buying our products,” Bowles says. While the larger contracts have made business a little more predictable—and have expanded the reputation of the start-up—the focus is still on creating local, handmade products that customers will love long-term.