Q&A with Wayne Grusie, Owner/Artisan, Grusie’s Woodworking

Wayne Grusie

How did you get interested in making items from wood?
My interest in woodworking dates back to my teenage years. After a full day at work, I would come into my workshop at night and try my hand at whatever project that came to mind with just a drill and a saw. Over time, it just evolved. About 30 years ago, I started acquiring machines and tools to bring speed, precision and efficiency to my work. I built more stuff and hoped for the best. So, woodworking has been a favourite hobby of mine for well over 50 years. And I just, sort of, became more preoccupied with it after I retired from full-time employment.

Please tell us a little bit about you.
In my teenage years, I used to work for the United Grain Growers grain elevator in Wanham. Then for five years, I was the Public Works foreman for the Village of Wanham until it dissolved and merged with Birch Hills County as a hamlet in 1999. Following Wanham’s dissolution, I worked as a grader operator for the County and, after 10 years, moved on to become a serviceman for the Birch Hills Gas Co-op, a job I held for 17 years.

Tell us some of the wood items that stuck with you and eventually formed the core of your woodworking business.
I just tend to narrow my focus on products where there’s steady buyer demand. Over the years, demand has been consistent for my bird houses, picture frames, and 4ft-long plant-display benches. Even I am surprised sometimes at how many people are interested in bird houses and actually spend money on them. I began the business with the plant-display benches; but, in fact, the bird house is my best-seller. There’s a lot of interest, too, from families for my picture frames.

How did your business eventually take off?
Word just gets around, you know, thanks to our friends and neighbours in the community as well as out-of-town folks reached by word-of-mouth somehow. And, one day, the phone just started ringing. For more than 20 years now, the farmers markets in Bezanson, Tangent and – more recently – Rycroft have been the main marketing venues for my products. Then about 10 years ago, my business received a big boost when I got a call from organizers of the Teepe Creek Stampede who wanted to use my frames for their souvenir rodeo photo giveaways for sponsors. Orders come from everywhere in Alberta. As we speak, I’m finishing dozens of orders of picture frames for a customer in Medicine Hat. Apparently, the rough, aged and rustic look of my frames suit well for the family’s photos at a recent funeral service.

So, what makes your products different from others in the market?
All my products are made from recycled materials. The spruce wood I’m using comes from torn-down granaries that, until I came to express interest on them, stood unused for many, many years. As you know, a lot of our farmers are using steel bins now to hold their grains. Some of my glass and cardboard box are salvaged from items that otherwise would end up in the dump. People in the community who knew what I do just bring them to me. As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. I have sheds filled to the rafters with materials that I may never be able to use up until many years down the line.

How are you planning to grow the business going forward?
I’m happy with the amount of business I’m getting right now. I just want to maintain the pace of the business. I’m getting older and dealing with some health issues. But I’m in perfect shape otherwise to not be thinking about slowing down or quitting. I want to continue to be productive at retirement. Besides, there’s just a great feeling at sharing your passion with others and having your product decorate someone’s living space.

Contact:

  • Location: 49 Street, Wanham
  • Phone: (780) 694-3947
  • E-mail: grusieb@gmail.com