Root River Hardwoods came from humble beginnings in 1980 when Andy Bahl’s dad Richard Bahl and his partners, Mike Merritt and Jeff Wand, purchased a sawmill in Preston, Minn. In 1988, Andy started working with millwork, supplying kiln-dried lumber to furniture and cabinet makers.
His next step included purchasing a Weinig molder, the Cadillac of molders; he hired additional workers and produced more millwork. The company went on to purchase a second molder, saws and sanders.
In the mid to late ‘90s, the company purchased a building in Albert Lea. Brett Merritt, son of co-founder Mike Merritt, manages the Albert Lea store. This store is more of a showroom and carries a lot of furniture grade plywood. The store, set up for hobbyists, has bins of lumber available for the hobbyists to choose from for their furniture and cabinet projects. It has some equipment such as sanders and saws.
The Preston store concentrates on production; hobbyists need to order their lumber which is brought in for them.
Currently, the 40-year-old company carries a one million board foot inventory of wood on hand, ready to mill to order. With an inventory like that, the company is able to quickly provide materials to builders. Having its own sawmill and kiln drying its own lumber, places Root River in an advantageous position in the millwork industry.
Root River Hardwoods has all types of native hardwoods available — walnut, maple, hickory, cherry, and oak. These are harvested locally in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. In addition, yellow poplar is brought in to create paint grade millwork. Alder is brought from out west, and redwood is brought from California.
Root River Hardwoods does a lot of work in the Twin Cities as well as a few homes locally. The luxury homes that they provide millwork for in the cities are 15,000- to 30,000-square-foot homes. Representatives from Root River measure the homes and plan the materials needed. The millwork is created in Preston and delivered to the cities for installation by the builders.
Andy Bahl shared that the largest home they had worked on was a 50,000-square-foot home. They did all the hardwood flooring, doors, curved trim, curved automatic doors for the home. That particular home included an amazing 10 bars, all finished with millwork made by Root River Hardwoods.
In addition, the company has done a “ton of normal-sized houses” in the Twin Cities; these range from 5,000 to 10,000 square feet. The company can also replicate millwork to refurbish old homes.
Custom millwork for bars, box beams for ceilings, and custom doors with hidden hinges are just a few of the creations done by Root River Hardwoods for home construction.
Millwork from Root River Hardwoods has been shipped as far away as Alaska, Florida, and California to buyers who have learned about their excellent quality and service.
In the last five years, a new trend has begun to use millwork on the exteriors of homes. This is where the California redwood is used.
When asked if COVID had adversely affected the company, Bahl replied, “We’ve never been busier — from big houses to smaller houses and remodeling!” Since people are home more, they seem to want to enjoy and improve their homes.
The company currently employs three salespeople and 10 workers in the shop. There is no need for a large sales staff; jobs are bid with the same companies, time after time. Root River Hardwoods has a reputation for being fussy, with the ability to turn orders around quickly and provide good
service. The company is well respected in the construction business.
Expansion is not part of the plan right now; they are trying to handle the work they have coming in. Eleven on the River, a 40-story hi-rise with high-end luxury apartments/condos in Minneapolis is one of the latest projects.
Carl Runck, Director of Real Estate Development, Ryan Companies boasts,“Every detail about Eleven has been thoughtfully considered and will be best-in-class.” Root River hardwoods will be doing all the millwork and doors for the project, obviously best-in-class!
Novelist and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, “I call architecture frozen music.” The millwork done by Root River Hardwoods definitely provide the high notes for that music!