There's Beauty In Wood Ruined By Emerald Ash Borer, Furniture Maker Says

CHICAGO — The emerald ash borer has left a trail of destruction in its wake — but also some beauty, Curtis Witek says.

Witek, of Noble Square, is founder of City Forest Products, which takes wood destroyed by the emerald ash borer and turns it into products like cutting boards and end tables. Witek started the business, which he runs out of a small workshop in Wicker Park, in January and will officially start selling his creations with an April 28 launch party.

Witek, 27, whose full-time job is as an urban planner for the nonprofit Center For Neighborhood Technology, has always liked working with his hands and also crafting wood with tools. He came up with City Forest Products after talking to his cousins, who harvest lumber in their backyard and took him to an Indiana stockyard that was converting wood into pallets.

 Curtis Witek is founder of City Forest Products.

City Forest Products

CHICAGO — The emerald ash borer has left a trail of destruction in its wake — but also some beauty, Curtis Witek says.

Witek, of Noble Square, is founder of City Forest Products, which takes wood destroyed by the emerald ash borer and turns it into products like cutting boards and end tables. Witek started the business, which he runs out of a small workshop in Wicker Park, in January and will officially start selling his creations with an April 28 launch party.

Witek, 27, whose full-time job is as an urban planner for the nonprofit Center For Neighborhood Technology, has always liked working with his hands and also crafting wood with tools. He came up with City Forest Products after talking to his cousins, who harvest lumber in their backyard and took him to an Indiana stockyard that was converting wood into pallets.

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    Some of the wood there, which has been ravaged by the emerald ash borer, was unusable for pallets, but Witek thought he could shape that wood into everyday goods.

    "It's this beetle that's killing all this ash, but it leaves behind a beautiful design with little trails in the wood," Witek said. "I thought that there was a lot of opportunity there."

    Witek built a kiln in his Wicker Park workshop to dry the wood and kill any ash borers that were possibly left inside. He then makes the products, and while he hasn't finalized the prices, he said an end table could run between $185-$200.

    Witek said all the wood is coming from the Indiana stockyard, which collects wood from Gary, Whiting and other Northwest Indiana locations, but he hopes to obtain rights to legally source wood from the Cook County Forest Preserves and Chicago Park District.

    Witek will sell his products online and he's also reaching out to boutique furniture stores in West Town and River North.

    Anyone interested in the April 28 launch can sign up here to receive an invite. The event will be held from 6-9 p.m. at Standing Passengers, 1458 W. Chicago Ave.

    Photo Credit: Chris Witek