Small Business
King’s Hardwood Supply
Making Hardwoods Easy
Joining crafters and carpenters with specialty wood
By Terri Marshall

rom cradles to coffins, railings to railroad ties, and canoes to charcuterie boards, wood finds its way into all types of designs.

Hardwood retailers provide expertise about the qualities and characteristics of various woods and supply the necessary wood and tools for woodworking at every level, from hobbyists to professional contractors.

Becoming Superior
Jack Utton grew up in Vermont, where the autumn colors fueled his passion for trees. He studied forestry at the University of Maine and worked as a county forester for ten years in Wisconsin. He brought that knowledge to Fairbanks and started Superior Hardwoods in 1983. It has the distinction of being Fairbanks’ first business specializing in the sale of fine-quality hardwoods.

Utton, who also worked as the director of natural resources for the Tanana Chiefs Conference, stocked typical hardwoods such as white oak, red oak, cherry, and hickory, and he also brought in exotic woods such as lignum vitae and ebony. Lignum vitae was used by the US Navy and shipbuilders to build underwater bearings that line the propeller shafts of submarines and steamships, and hickory and white ash are the hardwoods of choice for crafting dog sled runners. Alaska birch was also part of the starting line-up and continues to be a favorite of locals today.

Most of Superior Hardwoods’ business comes from the local community, but bush orders come from as far away as Valdez and Kotzebue at times. When Utton owned the store, he ordered most of his hardwoods by the truckload from Wisconsin—because of his work in that state, his familiarity with Wisconsin’s forests and lumber mills, and his confidence in the quality of the woods. All of Superior Hardwoods’ lumber is carefully kiln-dried to the proper moisture content. If hardwoods are not slowly air-dried and kilned, they tend to shrink and crack, especially in the low humidity of an Alaska winter.

There have been a few owners of Superior Hardwoods, but the longest of them were Rick Kreofsky and Connie Page. When they bought the business in 1996, Kreofsky had more than twenty years of experience in the woodworking and building trades. During their seventeen-year tenure, they added a showroom to the warehouse along with custom milling services. Today the shop on Old Steese Highway features a large sander, jointer, planer, saws, and moulder.

For Hobbyists and Contractors
In 2015, husband-and-wife-team Justin and Nava Christian bought Superior Hardwoods. Nava came to Fairbanks by way of her father’s military career, and Justin is a born and raised Fairbanksan.

“I’ve always wanted to own a business, and I think it came from being a teen and wanting to be my own boss,” Nava says. “I went to the University of Alaska Fairbanks and obtained my business management degree. Justin previously worked as an independent contractor. Our combined experience helps keep the business balanced.”

Superior Hardwoods continues to grow under the Christians’ leadership. “We continue to receive business from hobbyists, but when we took over, we started getting more business from contractors,” Nava explains. “I’ve increased our marketing through online advertising and TV commercials.”

The Christians often welcome homeowners considering remodeling along with their contractors to help with the selection of woods they need for their projects.

wooden desk
Between the final product and the woodworker who conceived it, hardwood retailers supply material of the proper type and form. Wood is what they live for.

King’s Hardwood Supply

The Christians have added a CNC (computer numerical control) machine to the shop, which can do custom cuts for anything from table legs to shelf pieces. Woodworkers are welcome to come into the shop to use the tools available. “Often woodworkers making items like cutting boards will come in and run the boards through the sander instead of hand sanding,” Nava says.

The lumber stocked at Superior Hardwoods is typically grouped into domestics and exotics, with wood sourced from outside the United States being the exotics. Popular among the domestics are maple, hickory, walnut, and cherry ash. “There are a lot of people in Fairbanks that prefer Alaskan birch,” says Nava. “They’ll trim their houses out, add windowsills and more, all in Alaskan birch.”

Anchorage Suppliers
In Anchorage, Hardware Specialties has served the woodworking industry since 1984. The company prides itself on competitive pricing, quality products, and excellent customer service.

Hardware Specialties’ warehouse is stocked with a wide variety of hardwoods, exotic lumber, wood slabs, turning blanks, wood turning tools, power tools, hand tools, hardware, and more.

Hardware Specialties’ lumber stock includes African mahogany, alder, ash, beech, birch, cherry, fir, hickory, Honduras mahogany, knotty pine, lyptus, maple, Philippine mahogany, poplar, red oak, teak, walnut, white oak, and yellow cedar. Inventory also includes butcher block offerings along with plywood, decking materials, and exotic lumber.

For bigger jobs, Anchorage also has Pacific Alaska Lumber, supplying lumber and building materials to commercial, government, and industrial customers throughout North America since 2007. Often the go-to company for contractors, Pacific Alaska Lumber specializes in imported hardwoods in demand for marine piling, railroad ties, structural timbers, and a wide range of architectural uses.

Utilizing a network of well-respected providers of eco-friendly and sustainable hardwoods in Africa, Asia, and South America, Pacific Alaska Lumber specializes in the direct-source shipment of greenheart, purpleheart, mora, ekki, and apitong. These heartwoods are recommended for cabinets, fine furniture, parquet flooring, tool handles, shipbuilding, and heavy construction, among other things.

For jobs requiring high-performance products with a high level of cost effectiveness, Pacific Alaska Lumber recommends engineered wood for floor and roof systems, beams, headers, or rim boards for frame construction, noting that these products efficiently use more of the tree while bringing out the best qualities of natural wood.

“We continue to receive business from hobbyists, but when we took over, we started getting more business from contractors.”
Nava Christian
Superior Hardwoods
Pacific Alaska Lumber also provides essential services, including submittals, fabrication, a variety of wood preservative treatments, and logistics.

Pacific Alaska Lumber also produces mats from Pacific Coast softwood timber. The company offers a full range of timber mats, laminated wood mats, and steel framed mats. Pacific Alaska Lumber mats are currently in use for oil and gas exploration, pipeline construction, civil construction, marine construction, and wind power installation, where they protect sensitive terrain from heavy equipment and reduce reclamation costs.

Pacific Alaska Lumber’s roots are in wholesale distribution of construction materials nationwide. The company, based in Lakewood, Washington, has a strong presence in Alaska and Hawaii. Extensive experience in managing the logistics of getting material to remote jobsite locations makes Pacific Alaska Lumber invaluable for large commercial projects throughout Alaska.

With his home-based shop, Reyes Alvarez is geared toward the needs of hobbyists, and he’s loaded with advice to up their woodworking game.

King’s Hardwood Supply

close up of dark wood
“I’m kind of like a coach… I spend most of my time telling customers what woods they should or shouldn’t use for their projects and what safety equipment they should utilize.”
Reyes Alvarez
King’s Hardwood Supply
Filling a Valley Void
A long reach is fine for some jobs, but sometimes a community needs a local retailer. That’s why Reyes Alvarez established King’s Hardwood Supply in Palmer about five years ago.

“The local hardwood supplier retired and moved out of state,” Alvarez explains. “The only supplier we had here is an hour away and doesn’t conform to the average customer’s schedule needs who need to shop after standard business hours. I opened the business out of my home, and my weekday hours run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., allowing hobbyists to shop after their workday is complete.”

The shop on Broadway Drive began with a table saw and a few basic tools and has grown to include multiple services for local woodworkers. Alvarez, with roughly twenty years of woodworking experience, has a full-time job in addition to running his hardwood business.

Customer service is a priority for him, and he meets the hobbyists or woodworkers where they are. “I’m kind of like a coach,” he says. “I spend most of my time telling customers what woods they should or shouldn’t use for their projects and what safety equipment they should utilize.”

Alvarez notes that certain types of wood are good for tables and not good for items like cutting boards. “Knowing the difference between the two is key,” he says, adding that he guides customers in their selections.

Alvarez is a relatively small supplier and chooses to work with brokers in Washington state who source domestic hardwoods. “I don’t deal with imported hardwoods as it is more technical and more problematic,” he says.

While most of his customers are hobbyists, he also attracts woodworkers who specialize in items such as ornate tables and cabinets. Alvarez’s mission at King’s Hardwood Supply is to be the go-to destination for discerning woodworkers, craftsmen, and do it yourself enthusiasts. He strives to offer a selection of fine hardwoods and provides his customers with the materials and knowledge they need to bring their woodworking projects to life.