Randy Smith purchased the former Campbell Payne building on Thurman Avenue last November, and plans to open The Craft Crucible doors this fall.
In 2008, Randy Smith left the corporate world, where he worked as a mechanical engineer, to build beautiful handcrafted wooden furniture and the Kashiwa Woodworking brand. Flash forward eight years, and Smith is about to open the doors to a new Midtown-based workspace and lumber shop: The Craft Crucible.
Since Lynchburg Innovation Week in June, when Smith was awarded a $12,000 Community Business Launch grant after completing CO.STARTERS, he has been busy renovating and outfitting his 6,000 square foot warehouse with the finest woodworking tools. Formerly owned by Campbell Payne, the workspace on Thurman Avenue will become the new home for Smith's three businesses: The Craft Crucible, Kashiwa Woodworking, and Hill City Hardwoods.
"My workspace for Kashiwa is currently in my basement, and I'm limited by space and the types of tools I can use there," said Smith. "My ultimate dream was to have a space where all of these pieces of my businesses would come together."
Smith is investing his grant money in purchasing machinery for the new shop, such as a wide belt sander, band saw, 24+ planer and a spray booth. These larger, expensive tools, are typically unaccessible to woodworkers who are just starting to set up shop.
"The grant has helped me tackle some of the big ticket items that I need for the space," said Smith."With these tools, woodworkers, local hobbyists and amateurs will have access to tools and services that aren't as affordable or are too big for the average home shop."
The Craft Crucible will be in one of the Lynchburg's Enterprise Zones, which means that Smith is eligible to apply for the Local Redevelopment Program for qualified improvements. He's working with the Lynchburg Office of Economic Development to apply for the Enterprise Zone program. Once the inspection process is complete, Smith will begin transferring lumber and tools from Hill City Hardwoods and the Kashiwa shop to the new warehouse. His next step is to find some full-time tenants who also share a love for woodworking.
"I'm hoping to eventually find the right mix of other artisans who want to rent shop space on a full-time basis," said Smith. "We can work as a collaborative - sometimes working on projects together - but everyone will have their own projects as well. At a minimum, we can bounce ideas off of one another and make a creative, collaborative environment."
Smith moved to Lynchburg 22 years ago to pursue his career in engineering, but stayed in the area after he started Kashiwa Woodworking eight years ago. He successfully completed the CO.STARTERS entrepreneur training program in Lynchburg this spring and was eligible to compete in the Community Business Launch grant competition. Smith credits Lynchburg's openness to supporting local startups and the arts as contributing factors to his recent success.
"It’s really interesting that here in Lynchburg the Office of Economic Development is interested even in a small business like mine, which is just one person," said Smith. "They see the value in the small businesses that are locally owned, that are investing locally, and that are trying to step into new areas of the city, like Midtown. They see that the arts drive economic development and I don’t think that’s something that you find in a lot of places."
The Craft Crucible will open in fall 2016. For updates, follow the Facebook page.
Photographer credit: Randy Smith and dog, Yuji, by Tim Miles