Hoppe Tree Service’s April 2022 announcement of a merger with Lakeside Tree Care in Kenosha means more than an expansion of tree care services. It’s an opportunity to save more trees from getting ground up into wood chips, cut up into firewood, or simply dumped in a landfill. Hoppe’s Urban Wood Lab is turning a growing number of these trees into quality wood products for use by builders, woodworkers, artisans and hobbyists. In this interview, HTS President and Urban Wood Lab founder August Hoppe talks about his vision for sustainability in the arboriculture industry.
Q: How is the Urban Wood Lab innovating the tree care industry?
August: 36 million urban trees are cut down every year across the U.S. due to disease, storm damage and many other reasons. As arborists, we hate to see so many trees come down and essentially see all this great wood being wasted. Often it is hard to tell our clients that a tree they love has become a hazard and needs to be removed. By giving them a second life as interesting lumber and live-edge slabs, the Urban Wood Lab creates a solution that’s good for people, the environment and the industry.
Q: What catalyzed you to start the Urban Wood Lab?
August: The idea came out of a discussion we were having at the Wisconsin Urban
Forestry Council about how we could make urban wood utilization grow. One of the biggest barriers was and still is connecting the supply chain from arborists to mill operators to a retail outlet. I realized that at Hoppe, we could do all of those things, so I thought let’s take on this responsibility for the industry and see if we can make it work. And it is!
Q: What’s driving the growth of urban wood utilization in the U.S?
August: Two things. First, our industry wants this solution for a higher and better use of felled urban trees. We’re seeing more tree service companies get involved in the urban wood supply chain. In fact, in April we had 40 tree company executives from around the country fly into Milwaukee for the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA) conference. They came to tour the Urban Wood Lab and our Grafton production facility and learn about our business model. The connection from arborist to mill to retail is being made by more people in more locations. The Urban Wood Network is also doing a great job of facilitating these connections.
The second thing that’s driving growth in urban wood utilization is consumers. Urban wood is a unique resource that’s very different from wood grown specifically for retail or construction. It’s got more character, and it provides a wider array of species to work with like locust, olive ash and elm. Other stores don’t offer this type of wood. People love it for its character, and because it’s a great reuse of wood that otherwise would be chipped, turned into firewood, or dumped in a landfill.
Q: What makes this merger so exciting?
August: It’s a chance to serve a broader base of customers in Racine and Kenosha, and get a larger percentage of urban trees that are felled back out for reuse. For 35 years John Bernacchi at Lakeside Tree Care has provided excellence in tree services, and we’re really pleased to be part of his succession plan as he gets ready to retire.
People want to work with us for their tree needs because they know we’re doing good things with the wood, and we hope that will continue with John’s clients. In addition, I think our customers at the Urban Wood Lab will like knowing the wood they buy for their projects is as local as it gets with more coming from Racine and Kenosha counties.
For Urban Wood Lab Store hours and location and to view the entire slab inventory and lumber pricing, visit www.theurbanwoodlab.com.