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Grand Log Homes eyes home, remodeling markets
PHOTO: Courtesy of Grand Log Homes. Charlie and Richard Mizia pose with one of their hybrid logs, which were developed with assistance from the NRRI.
While many wood products markets have been stagnant or even declining during the last decade, some are trying to infuse new life into the industry.
Those entrepreneurs include brothers Charlie and Richard Mizia, originally from Superior and now residing in Itasca County, Minn. Later this month, they will unveil their “hybrid log” concept at the Minneapolis Lake Home and Cabin Show.
It’s a concept they hope will revolutionize new lake home and cabin construction as well as remodeling. The concept allows the company to take smaller dimensional lumber and manufacture half-logs or full-logs that are nearly indistinguishable from large diameter, full-logs.
The Mizia’s product concept is a foam core covered by a wood arch, much thicker than a traditional veneer. That arch allows the wood to be given a hand-hewn look – impossible to replicate in a veneer, due to its thinness.
“If you saw (our Grand Log product) on a home on Pokegama Lake (in Grand Rapids), there would be no way you could tell if it was authentic full log or our hybrid system,” said Charlie Mizia.
“We wanted a product that could go head-to-head with full logs,” added Richard Mizia.
The startup company will use imported red cedar or white fir for its product. The Mizias wanted to use white pine, but couldn’t source it locally. They hope, however, over time that white pine will become more available.
The Grand Log product was nearly 20 years in the making. The brothers first developed a foam core half-log siding with an outer veneer, which is still being produced under different ownership in Solon Springs, Wis. Their firm, Husky Rustic Siding, was sold to lumber distributor Virgil Hartje and hospitality consultant Greg Lehn in 2003 and reorganized under H&L Industries. Terms of the 2003 sale, which took place out of receivership, were not disclosed.
The Mizia’s new hybrid log concept has been on the drawing board for about three years. The University of Minnesota Duluth Natural Resources and Research Institute (NRRI) contributed to the development process and helped make the prototype.
Brian Brashaw, NRRI program director and project manager, said the institute has been working with the Mizias for a number of years – having helped develop their first log veneer product. He added that long-term relationships, such as the one NRRI has developed with the Mizias, aid in the long-term success of projects.
Research and development funding was also aided by the Grand Rapids-based Blandin Foundation, which provided a $25,000 matching funds grant to NRRI. Wade Fauth, vice president and director of grants for the Blandin Foundation, said it provides the matching grant funds directly to the NRRI, not individual companies.
The Mizias assert that having outside organizations contribute to research and development will bolster their product’s reputation.
“We’ve relied on (NRRI) to develop a clamping system and comprehensive testing system that give our company credibility from the start,” said Richard Mizia.
Grand Log developers say there are a number of advantages to their patent-pending product in addition to its authentic look. The logs, due to their insulated interior, are more energy efficient than traditional full logs and use far less timber. The reduction in the use of wood also is expected to reduce the cost – in comparison to solid wood - although the Mizia brothers said they are not yet sure of what the total cost savings might be.
Grand Log Homes currently employs just the Mizia brothers. There is a small research and development facility and offices just west of Grand Rapids, in neighboring Cohasset.
Investment will be an early test for their new product. The brothers say that as they exit the R & D phase, they’ll be looking to attract “the next round of capital.” They say manufacturing start-up costs are relatively low, but did not disclose exact figures. Current facilities in Cohasset are sufficient to meet earlier orders, but the Mizias hope to outgrow those facilities quickly.
“To start, we just need some custom clamping stations,” said Richard Mizia.
Brashaw said NRRI helped the Mizias identify local vendors that could help with the early manufacturing process, keeping start-up funding needs low.
Still, there are other variables that must fall into place before the project is a viable business. The February Lake and Log Home Show will be a first hurdle.
If the company can generate interest in the Twin Cities later this month, it could help kick-start orders, which the brothers say they will be ready to take by early to mid-summer. Orders could be filled with 12 to 16 weeks lead-time, the Mizias say.
While there may be obstacles ahead, the brothers believe if their new product gains traction, they could head a company with several dozen employees.
“There’s no reason, in five years, that we couldn’t have a state-of-the-art facility with up to 50 people (employed),” said Charlie Mizia.
“I think this (product) has a lot of opportunity,” said Brashaw. “Although home building is down, there is a trend toward natural products. This gives homeowners the ability to have a full log look.”Previous Construction Articles:
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