BRADY - Andrew Bishop was just looking to create a table that had sentimental value a couple of years ago
But now, the furniture business he created has branched out across the county. This Montana Made report features the family behind River Bottom Restoration Furniture and the unusual material they use.
Bishop’s family put roots down on a farm just east of Brady 100 years ago.
“My dad tells the story about my grandfather trying to plant every species of trees there was back in the 40's and he just couldn't find a tree that would grow out here."
They might never have imagined that Andrew would go out on a limb and use their weeds to grow a business.
Andrew makes furniture of out Russian Olive trees which are considered a noxious weed, “I’m the only guy that shows up when you Google Russian Olive furniture.”
From scouting the perfect tree to milling it out to planing it, sanding it and finishing it, you might think that it’s a full-time job for him and his wife – but that’s not the case.
“I’m a lawyer,” laughed Jennifer Bishop. “So, this is very different from my day-to-day.”
Andrew himself is an engineer and they keep the business all within their family tree.
“I call my 91-year-old grandmother my head of sales because anyone that will listen, she’ll tell them everything they need to know about Olive Russian wood and her grandson that works with it,” Andrew said.
The family has sold furniture as far out as Alaska and doesn’t outsource any of the work.
Andrew says it’s hard for him to describe the wood, but “what I always go back to is it looks like a wild walnut. It is just a very wild-looking wood. I’m very prejudiced, but I think it’s the coolest-looking domestic hardwood there is.”
Beautiful, but every Russian Olive tree has its thorns. It’s difficult to work with but for Andrew and Jen, the beauty of the finished product is worth it.
"We like our work…it’s so fun at the end of the day to be able to come home, work on some projects together, and actually see this wood come to life,” Jen said.
The customers seem to agree with that assessment. “The coolest reaction I've had was one of the first tables i delivered. We brought it in and she cried," Andrew recalled.
Jen says that Russian Olive is the type of hardwood that will likely last forever.
“I certainly hope that each piece we build does get treasured forever. That’s what people tell us a lot of times when they order a piece is they want to buy something that can be handed down.”
Andrew and Jen are able to market their business from their farm by using Facebook and social media. They say the only drawback is the pictures online don’t do the furniture justice.
Click here to visit the River Bottom Restoration Furniture website.