Business Profile: Thomas Wehnes

Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2002

Title and company: Owner, Wehnes & Sons

Biographical Information: Born in Germany, Wehnes immigrated with his parents when he was 4. They farmed in the Yakima Valley, Wash., where Wehnes dreamed of going north to Alaska. He did right after high school, earning a forestry science degree from Sheldon Jackson College, where he met his wife, Yvonne. Then he went to the state police academy and served with the Juneau Police Department for 14 years, ending up as a sergeant. The first piece of furniture he made was a bed for his first child. After that he began making more furniture for his family, and then received special orders from friends. After a decade building furniture on the side and selling it at craft shows, he turned in his badge in 2000 to make his woodworking hobby a full-time job.

Services: Wehnes has a two-year stock of furniture he's made. The store is stocked with hutches, armoires, cabinets, tables, chairs, planters, trucks, chests, boxes, carvings and benches, all handmade from yellow cedar, red cedar and alder bought locally and from Icy Straits Lumber. He also has a line of outdoor furniture made of yellow and red cedar with ceramic coated screws and polyurethane glue, so they can hold up to Juneau's wet weather. Wehnes also takes special orders for custom furniture. "Pretty much if someone has an idea, I take that and make furniture out of it," Wehnes said.

This year he began carrying the works of eight other artists and craftsmen in his store. Some are painters who embellish his furniture. Others are painters or crochet workers. Wehnes also paints and makes smaller wooden gift items and carvings, including Alaska Native-style paddles and screens. He was adopted into the Dei Shaa Tan clan in Angoon in October 1997.

Family: His wife, Yvonne, and their four kids, Kyle, 18; Erica, 16; Josh, 13; and Todd, 12, have helped with the business.

Quotable: "I have made just about everything. I've done work on boats, I've done a fair amount of carving. ... There's really nothing out of wood that I can't do."

Contact: information: Visit his store in Miner's Mercantile Mall on Front Street or call 789-4985.

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