RAISING THE BAR

BY AMANDA BLACK | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

When Bryant Dyess started woodworking years ago, he had no idea his hobby would turn into Encore Reclaimed Lumber & Millwork. As a police officer in Alabama, Dyess spent his days off each week learning the craft, quite simply, by doing. With little knowledge other than what his dad had taught him as a kid, Dyess began creating small furniture pieces to earn extra money. But when someone asked him to tear down an old structure, his true knack for woodworking emerged. “You start at the top,” he says casually about the process of ripping a historical building apart. Dyess quickly learned that there were more growth opportunities in the reclaimed lumber industry.

Since those early days, Dyess has gone from little-to-no understanding of the business to near-encyclopedic knowledge. After his first teardown, he familiarized himself with every kind of wood there was. “I’d take down an old barn and learn it was built around 1910, then I’d tear down a 1950s structure, bring the wood back and notice that the wood was totally different,” he says.

From there, he had a foundation to build upon—he knew from his teardowns that the best wood, in terms of looks and quality, was pre-1920s oak and heart pine. But he didn’t stop there. “I wanted to learn what happened in those eras; what was changing with the environment, the production; what was going on in the lumber industry,” Dyess says. That’s one thing that sets him apart—his constant thirst to learn more.

DesignEncoreVer3-Image-1

DesignEncoreVer3-Image-2

His skill and desire to do right by the client shows in every job. From large-scale corporate projects, like outfitting the wine room in the LEED Gold-certified Ritz-Carlton hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina, to residential jobs that feature gorgeous hand-hewn oak beams and floors, all lumber originally milled from the 1800s, the sky truly is the limit for all the company can create. Because of that versatility, Encore is thriving.

With Dyess and his sister-in-law, Julie Gibbes, at the helm, customer satisfaction is paramount. “The only way we’re going to stay successful is if everybody who uses reclaimed wood does a good job with it,” Dyess says. “Since I’m one of the few in Charleston with a milling capability, my goal is to create a high standard in the greater Charleston area. In that way I can ensure quality, no matter where customers buy their lumber.”

With that lofty ambition in mind, Encore has taken a big step in the right direction for all customers. “We want to guarantee— 100 percent—the quality of the wood from beginning to end,” he says. His passion for a good customer experience is behind everything Encore does. That means that every client gets exactly what they want because every project is entirely custom—no piece of wood is precut until a customer claims it.

While other companies rely on multiple producers, Encore is a turnkey operation, cutting out the middleman and enabling clients to work with them from start to finish. Dyess says, “We’re producing the product, selling it and now we can install it.”

Encore hopes to dispel the idea that reclaimed wood is an aspirational product. When it comes to flooring, Gibbes says their price per square foot rivals that of new lumber. With reclaimed wood, however, your return on investment will extend for generations.

“From when it started growing to when we ship it off to the customer, our lumber is a minimum of 300 years old,” Gibbes notes. “If it’s survived all those years, as long as you take care of it, it’s good.”

As Gibbes and Dyess say, time has done a great job. Now their job is to ensure that the character and beauty of the wood can be enjoyed for decades to come.

Amanda Black is a full-time editor and part-time freelance writer living in Charleston.