Andrew Mays loads a log of oak wood onto a firewood processor in the woodyard at his parents' house in Hammonton, N.J. Amaysing Wood is a small black-owned, veteran-owned business established in 2020 in Delaware. They sell wood for heating one's home, smoking meats, or for bonfires.

Sweat streams down Andrew Mays’ face as he hefts a freshly sawed phase of oak onto the again of his firewood processor, saved at his dad and mom’ rural Hammonton home. He guides the log — taller than he’s and virtually as broad — right into a cage-covered chamber, then slices it into squat rounds with a chainsaw. The rounds drop to a platform beneath, the place a mechanical arm rams them in opposition to a star-shaped blade, splitting them into six wedges of roughly hewn wooden. They journey up a conveyor belt and fall right into a heap.

Mays’ work isn’t accomplished but, not even shut: He’s received a supply to make, so he’ll fill the again of his truck with a half-cord of wooden and ship it to the shopper’s home, the place he’ll unload and neatly organize it. He can’t abide by a sloppy woodpile. “I received OCD,” he says. “If it appears to be like like a multitude, I’m positively gonna stack it.”

Mays is a South Jersey native, a former heavy-equipment operator within the Military, a brand new dad, a budding entrepreneur, and a one of many higher-profile native firewood suppliers within the Philadelphia space. He’s gained a social media following by posting in regards to the little-known discipline of firewood employees. Within the three years since he established his Delaware-based enterprise, Amaysing Wooden, he’s provided scores of residential clients in addition to the likes of Heavy Steel Sausage, Martha, Dock Avenue, and bladesmith Steve Pellegrino.

The enterprise of retaining Philly’s fireplaces stoked and wood-fired ovens blazing is a troublesome one, as one can plainly see after watching Mays break down a couple of poles. However for wooden suppliers, this job is an avocation — a back-breaking aspect hustle that brings its personal rewards.

‘I used to be going to be shedding cash’

Supplying firewood is labor- and equipment-intensive. At a minimal, one wants entry to wooden, a car to haul it, know-how and equipment to interrupt it down, plus time and house to season it. And the value level to make that onerous work worthwhile typically exceeds clients’ expectations. In brief, it’s not a straightforward trade to reach.

“You may have every kind of fellows who get into it and attempt to make it work, and it simply fizzles out,” says Phil Stoltzfus, proprietor of Phil’s Firewood, a 13-year-old firm that sells packaged firewood to residential clients and a number of other eating places within the space, together with Sally, Stina Pizzeria, Jake’s and Cooper’s Wine Bar, and Aqimero on the Ritz-Carlton.

Stoltzfus began out very similar to Mays, delivering wooden in his Ford Ranger from Lancaster County. “My dad and mom had somewhat 20-acre farm on the market and I’d attempt to have a look at Craigslist adverts and go get free firewood, cut up it at my dad and mom’ place, after which carry it to Philly,” he says. “It took me about two months of doing that to appreciate I used to be going to be shedding cash.”

A Temple grad and a lover of fires and firewood — he put in a wooden range in his rowhouse — Stoltzfus transitioned to being a distributor, or “a glorified intermediary,” as he calls it. Yearly, he works on discovering firewood producers, “guys which are doing land-clearing and tree-trimming and tree removals.” His sources are as shut as Bensalem and so far as Lebanon County. The wooden is cut up, dried, and able to burn when it arrives at Stoltzfus’ Northeast Philly woodyard.

To make an in any other case unwieldy load manageable, he began packing wooden into IKEA baggage. They match about 1/thirty fifth of a wire and vary from $15 and $40 apiece, relying on the range. Stoltzfus gives air-dried or kiln-dried wooden in oak, cherry, or blended hardwood. Clients can decide up or have it delivered, which incorporates lugging the baggage inside.

That stage of service attracted longtime Phil’s Firewood buyer Neil Frauenglass, who moved into a home on Elfreth’s Alley in 2015. He and his accomplice take pleasure in a hearth almost each night time, so discovering a very good wooden provider was key. They began asking round quickly after they moved.

“Any person lastly stated, ‘There’s this man that can ship you wooden in big blue IKEA baggage, and he’ll carry them into your own home and set them wherever you need,’” says Frauenglass, chief advertising and marketing officer for Go to Philadelphia. Every winter he orders 5 baggage for the downstairs hearth and one other 5 for upstairs. “That was the clincher, as a result of he brings the baggage upstairs in our tiny little inner spiral staircase and stacks them up for us — it’s simply so wonderful.”

‘It’s a second of reflection’

Final yr, Phil’s Firewood bought greater than 11,000 baggage, nicely over 300 cords. It’s sufficient work that Stoltzfus hires a handful of part-time, seasonal staff to pack and make deliveries, however not sufficient to make a dwelling on. He works full-time for a bioinformatics firm.

“It’s very troublesome to do firewood as your predominant gig,” he says, estimating that to take action would require investing in a whole lot of 1000’s of {dollars}’ price of kit.

Amaysing Wooden is a smaller operation. Mays dietary supplements his revenue by working as a mechanic, and he additionally just lately launched an occasions enterprise known as Amaysing Promotions. He began Amaysing Wooden in 2020 after growing a deep appreciation for wooden, sparked by the primary time he lower down a tree. He has sources in each South Jersey and Delaware, and infrequently barters for logs. He splits them himself, then seasons the wooden in a makeshift greenhouse.

On a tour of his dad and mom’ Hammonton yard, which he used as a basecamp earlier than shifting to a bigger property in Delaware, he factors out options of a number of kinds of wooden. There’s loads of oak and pine (”nobody needs pine”), some maple, poplar, pink cedar, cherry (”you’ll odor a flowery odor”), peach, hickory, apple, even a pile of uncommon Osage orange wooden that Mays received from a good friend (”it’s one of many hottest-burning woods”).

Although the work is bodily onerous, Mays says it’s additionally therapeutic. “If you’re out right here by your self, it’s a second of reflection. It’s virtually like yoga.”

You’ll hear that sentiment from others within the commerce. Berwyn resident James Stango began reducing his personal firewood 12 years in the past, primarily to warmth his dwelling. The passion morphed into one thing extra for the full-time CPA: Stango began promoting wooden to others, largely associates of associates. He took programs in logging and tree-climbing, turning into an insured logging subcontractor. That allowed him to amass sufficient wooden to begin supplying a handful of space eating places, together with Mike’s BBQ, La Cabra Brewing Smokehouse, and Holy Que Smokehouse.

Stango’s enterprise has little profile past an Instagram web page. He doesn’t do any advertising and marketing past reaching out to eating places he thinks he can tackle. His spouse helps him hold the steadiness sheet. ”I don’t wish to crunch any numbers with regards to this,” he says. “After being a CPA for nearly 20 years, sitting at a desk, I simply recognize being exterior within the woods.”

‘A greater expertise’

Like Mays and Stoltzfus, Stango received into the firewood enterprise partially as a result of he had purchased from different suppliers himself and was left wanting. He hears that from clients, too. “You’d simply be shocked what number of tales you hear about, they received awful wooden and so they received taken benefit of,” he says. ”That’s been my mantra from the get-go: Simply create a greater expertise.”

Wooden from a small-time provider will probably be dearer than a bundle on the Acme, however these entrepreneurs are providing clients higher service, schooling, and — most significantly — higher-quality wooden. With correctly seasoned hardwood, your fireplace will burn longer and warmer and want a lot much less upkeep.

That issues for folk just like the pizza cooks at Eeva, the hybrid bakery/restaurant in Kensington.

“If you function a wood-fired oven,” says co-owner and head chef/baker Greg Dunn, “you’re always feeding the oven, studying temperature of the ground, visually studying what the embers appear to be.” Eeva’s cooks begin up the fireplace up at midday and hold it going until shut, and wooden prep is a part of service. “If there’s downtime, if there’s not meals to prep, then you may chop wooden,” Dunn says.

Eeva has sourced air-dried wooden from each Amaysing Wooden and Phil’s Firewood. There have been occasions the restaurant’s run out of the great things and acquired a couple of bundles elsewhere in a pinch; low-cost wooden mainly goes up in smoke. “Quite a lot of occasions should you get wooden from House Depot, it’s so dry, it’s typically very small,” Dunn says. “We’re asking for particular cuts of wooden, the dimensions of the wooden. That stuff’s actually vital.”

For smoked meats, wooden high quality is much more paramount. Kyle Smith of South Jersey’s Smith Poultry is understood for elevating pastured poultry and pigs, and for making glorious whole-hog barbecue. When he can, he cooks over smoldering wooden coals — ideally oak, somewhat hickory, and pecan wooden. “You set the put these coals beneath the meat and it provides it one other taste profile that’s simply wonderful. It could’t be touched.”

Smith has identified Mays for years. They often collaborate on occasions. He launched Mays to a number of contacts within the restaurant trade and to Vincent Finazzo of Riverwards Produce, which sells baggage of Amaysing Wooden for about $6. Finazzo says Riverwards clients are pleased to seek out firewood that aligns with their buy-local mentality.

As Smith put it, “Do you see the man who cut up the wooden at Acme?”