What's old is new again
Someone once told Corbin Manbeck the key to success is to surround yourself with people whose skills fill your voids.
So when it came to launching a woodworking business, Manbeck turned to longtime friend Jeremy Meyer, IT director for USD 257.
“He’s been teaching me how all this stuff works,” Meyer said, pointing to the comparably crude equipment such as a radial arm saw, a table saw and a planer at their Mid-American Woodworking shop near Neosho Falls.
The shop — which Manbeck built — is located behind his home at 231 Texas Rd. Manbeck has dreams of having a showroom in downtown Iola featuring his furniture. Manbeck’s ultimate goal is to create local jobs.
Manbeck describes his furniture as “industrial-inspired farmhouse.” He works with area welders to build steel bases for things such as dining room tables, and uses locally sourced, reclaimed wood — often taken out of old barns throughout the area — to create signature pieces.
That type of furniture is popular now, Meyer said.
Along the way, Meyer has taught Manbeck a little bit about computers and technology, too.
“He’s dug in and done some stuff I didn’t know he was capable of,” Meyer said.
THEIR partnership grew out of a friendship, spawned by the longtime friendship between Manbeck’s wife, Lissa, and Meyer’s girlfriend, Reine Loflin. Because the two women spent a lot of time together, that, naturally, meant Manbeck and Meyer spent time together, too.
“We’d sit around and look at each other, so we finally started to talk to each other,” Meyer said.
It’s been six or seven years since then.
Neither Manbeck nor Meyer expects their woodworking business to take the place of their day jobs. Meyer enjoys his work with the school district, and Manbeck is a track inspector for Union Pacific. The men plow any profits they make from the woodworking business back into it, which they hope will help it grow more quickly.
They spend about 40 hours a week, mostly nights and weekends, working on the business. Between their regular jobs and the new business, it’s a good thing Lissa and Reine enjoy spending so much time together, too, the men joked.
IN SPITE of their very different professional backgrounds, Manbeck and Meyer share a desire to create something meaningful from material that might otherwise be thrown away.
They’ve found plenty of sources for unwanted wood, mostly from old barns.
“Barn wood is a more stable product than the Douglas pine you can buy today. Plus it has lots of character,” Manbeck said. “And wood is an abundant resource that grows back, so it’s nice to think about the environment a little bit.”
To that end, they pledge to plant a tree native to Kansas for each piece of furniture they sell. It’s part of their effort to give back as well as reclaim.
“You take something that’s going to waste and turn it into something beautiful,” Meyer said.
“Most of the time, it’s going to be piled up and burned,” Manbeck said. “It’s just neat to think that you’re going to take that and turn it into something that’s going to be in someone’s house for a lifetime, and maybe even be passed down through generations.”