Madison Flitch gives new meaning to KC’s salvaged trees
John Pryor, the founder of Madison Flitch, is the master of “tree to table” furniture.
The young company recovers wood from local trees that were displaced by construction, felled by windstorms, damaged by illness or stricken by other calamities. Pryor catalogs each piece of wood’s story and then turns the wood into furniture with a unique design.
Instead of rotting in a landfill, the former trees go from blight to beauty. “Which we think is a great way to contribute back to the community,” Pryor said.
Work With Meaning
The smell of wood lured Pryor back to Kansas City from Boston, where he toiled without joy in a corporate job at a tech company. He wanted to start a business that would celebrate the city. He has a passion for woodworking, furniture-making and doing work with meaning.
“Being able to give local trees a second life through furniture making seemed like a great idea to cross off all of these goals,” Pryor said.
Pryor was raised in Kansas City, but his family hails from the Lake of Ozarks area, where his grandfather sold souvenir novelties, including small cedar boxes. The company is named after his great-grandfather, Madison, also a woodman. Flitch is an old English word for a slab of timber sawed from a wood log.
In the “tree to table” process, Pryor manages furniture-making from the time the tree comes down until the piece is on the showroom floor. All designs are original to Madison Flitch.
Each piece of furniture has a unique story because it is made from a local tree. A favorite story concerns his 909 line of furniture. The wood for the first pieces came from 120 trees the city removed from a blighted area to build the Kansas City Crime lab.
The 909 collection is named after the 909 Walnut apartment complex, which has heavy art deco architectural themes. The collection recalls the city‘s art deco past.
From Blight to Beautiful
Pryor‘s greatest satisfaction is knowing that Madison Flitch is genuine and authentic and operates with integrity.
“I can trace where the tree came from,” Pryor said. “I can enjoy the wood and make furniture out of it. I curate it, design it, and build it, then look back at the end of the day and know it is going to someone’s home.”
Pryor has some advice for other entrepreneurs. “One thing is that you have to get over your fear,” he said. Instead of deciding what you want to build, he said, make sure the market will embrace it.
At first, Pryor used simple designs from YouTube. But he decided he needed more training and enrolled in the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Franklin, Indiana, and studied under global masters. He is taking courses from the school now to become a master woodworker.
“Knowing I was going into the field gave me the confidence to launch a business like this,” he said of Madison Flitch.
A Second Life for Development Cuts
Pryor launched Madison Flitch in May in the Crossroads Arts District, and is focused on the Kansas City market. For now, he mans the shop alone, but he wants to move into a larger workspace in two to three years. He plans to hire as many as 10 employees later.
Kansas City is a particularly good place for Pryor’s “tree to table” process.
“With the incredible growth of Kansas City, many trees will be coming down due to development projects,” he said. “Our company is a great way to give these trees a second life by creating beautiful furniture pieces for the home or office.”