Inspired by reclaimed wood, brother and sister launch San Leon furniture shop
What does someone do after working in the oil and gas business in a managerial capacity for 25 years?
The answer was easy for Seabrook resident Lisa Yarbrough — build furniture.
Yarbrough along with her brother, David Gerhardt, put their heads together and started New From Old, opening their first combination store/warehouse in Bacliff in 2016, later moving it to San Leon. They specialize in reclaimed wood.
“Every piece of wood we acquire is reclaimed, meaning it’s architectural salvage from a demolished period house or barn wood, weathered planks, floorboards and the like,” said Gerhardt, who has been a carpenter for 25 years.
Both brother and sister grew up in Texas City, and neither one of them are quite sure what motivated them to launch the venture except for their desire to work with salvaged wood.
“David had just moved back to the area, and the timing was right,” Yarbrough said.
They began taking trips to Galveston to see what resources they could find to help them get started, and everywhere they went, they’d hear, “Go see Scotty.”
“We finally connected with Scott Hanson of Antique Warehouse, and he really helped us out,” Yarbrough said. “He asked us what we wanted to make, and I told him I didn’t have a clue — that we were presently refinishing furniture out of my garage in Seabrook. Scott advised us to rent a building somewhere and he’d help us find inventory.”
Hanson, whose business is in Galveston, makes 100 or more pieces of commissioned furniture each year and is revered for recreating new pieces from rescued wood.
And that’s how it all began, Yarbrough said.
Yarbrough found a building in Bacliff almost immediately, bought some racks, rented a U-Haul and headed to Galveston to collect the wood they’d acquired from Hanson.
Armed with some starting materials, Yarbrough and Gerhardt began building cabinets with doors made from vintage shutters, kitchen islands from shiplap and anything and everything out of beadboard.
Hanson became their mentor, Yarbrough said.
“We’ve had learning curves, so it took us a while to find our groove,” Gerhardt said. “But we eventually had customers and plenty of wood.”
Within two years, it was time to expand, so they moved into a 5,000-square-foot building, 2220 Broadway St. in San Leon.
“We got a lead on a large quantity of Colombian banak wood that had been sitting in a warehouse at the Port of Houston for 15 years,” Yarbrough said. “Banak is a hardwood with coarse texture and a straight grain, and we started using that almost exclusively for our projects.”
Because they were cutting and routing everything by hand, they knew they had to step up their game, they said.
Their equipment includes a drum sander, a computer numerical control, or CNC, machine and a software program that allows them to design just about anything consumers want, Yarbrough said.
“It works especially well when making corbels, because they look like those from the 1800s, a true replica of that era,” she said. “It’s amazing the furniture pieces we’ve been able to make.”
She also is working in tandem with San Leon business owner Norm Soucy, a master woodworker in his own right, who has been instrumental in tutoring Yarbrough and Gerhardt on the intricacies of the CNC machine.
Piles of wood stacked on racks from floor to ceiling soon will become dining tables, sofa tables, desks, bookshelves and fireplace mantels, Gerhardt said.
“When we start sanding old beadboard, the different colors start appearing, and I can actually recreate that paint color from a chip of the old paint,” Yarbrough said. “We’ve even found a way to give any surface that vintage, crackled-paint effect.”
Yarbrough has no regrets about starting a business from scratch, especially one she knew nothing about.
“I can build something new from something old every day and it intrigues me,” she said. “Plus, it’s fun.