If Furniture Could Talk ...
Memories abound in Dusty Reynolds' creations.
Photography by Jeffrey Bebee
Dusty Reynolds, the Greater Omaha Chamber's director of entrepreneurship and innovation, loves to talk about his latest project. “It's a totally organic process,” explains the man contributing to a bold vision for economic growth throughout the metro. “It's about being able to see things in new and creative ways – to see the innate potential often overlooked by others.”
Only Reynolds isn't talking about business start-ups, investor angels or job initiatives. He is talking about his passion for woodworking. He loves to assess the possibilities of raw slabs of wood while standing in his cramped workshop – a sawdust-strewn corner of the garage of the Rockbrook home that he shares with his wife, Julia, and their 1 ½-year-old son, Hudson.
One of these slabs was recently morphed into a rough-hewn cutting board for a newly married friend.
To understand the provenance of the scrap material used in the cutting board project requires a visit to his home's master bedroom. Here, Reynolds fashioned sliding closet doors out of wooden bleachers rescued from a gymnasium in Dodge, Neb. The gymnasium was the site of many a road game during the Hooper, Neb., native's high school basketball years.
Just as the ability to turn convention upside down is often a key to success when launching a new business, Reynolds flips his bleacher-turned-closet doors over to reveal the underbelly.
“This patina,” he says, while stroking the shadows that run along one side of each board, “is from the skin oils of people gripping the edge of these bleachers. Over here,” he adds upon inspecting another section of the rusticated surface, “is the halo left by a piece of bubblegum.”
It's the entrepreneur's trademark: Putting to use the simple idea of employing available resources in new and creative ways. With a screen-printing company already well-established, his latest venture is RaceNote. The secure online platform is for the collection, analysis and sharing of motor sports race data.
“I've been a fan of motor sports since I was this high,” Reynolds says while holding his hand only a couple of inches above his toddler son's head. “I was once a crew chief for a local motor sports team, and we were always taking tons of notes about all of the various aspects of racing. But we had no way to really organize or make efficient use of all of that data. RaceNote addresses those needs.”
Knowing when and how to delegate is a vital skill for any manager. But even seasoned veterans may have difficulty doing so, especially when it comes to pet projects that carry deep, personal meaning.
And so it was that his mettle was tested when it came to the centerpiece of the Reynolds home – a patchwork dining room table made from repurposed wood. It was a birthday gift for Julia in April 2013.
“There was just no way to keep it in stealth mode,” Reynolds says of the table, which represents milestones
in their lives.
So he had his buddy, Ben Petersen, build the table at Bench, The People's Workshop, in downtown Omaha. Delivery was done on the sly, too, on a night when Dusty and Julia were dining out with friends.
Reynolds, who learned carpentry from his grandfather, spent two months gathering the wood for the table. It was a labor of love, he says, because “Julia is the easiest person in the world to love 360 days out of the year.”
The couple met at Fremont Area Medical Center, where Julia was a nurse's aide and Dusty was visiting a seriously ill friend. Instantly attracted, Dusty cornered Julia in an elevator and posed a question: “What do you want to do with your life?” She replied, “Be a nurse in Africa.” They lived there for two years shortly after their marriage in March 2007.
Dusty's friend died shortly after the couple's honeymoon. “I met him as a teen. He was a mentor, best friend and second dad all at the same time,” Dusty recalls. “He taught me not to collect things but to collect experiences.”
Like those represented in the table.
“Each piece tells a story,” says Julia. The table includes flooring from the Fremont Area Medical Center; wood from the gym at Midland University, where Julia earned her nursing degree; and wood from the church where the couple was married.
“And this is from the kitchen table I grew up with,” Julia says. “When I get emotional, it's usually a delayed reaction kind of thing,” she says as she gently caresses the table's variegated surface. “But this is … this is just …”
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