Superior urban logging company gets a national TV nodA struggling Superior business is set to be featured on a reality TV show, national exposure its owners said they hope will attract the attention of an investor with a similar passion for old-growth white pine.
By: Christa Lawler, Duluth News Tribune
A struggling Superior business is set to be featured on a reality TV show, national exposure its owners said they hope will attract the attention of an investor with a similar passion for old-growth white pine.
Old Globe Reclaimed Wood Co., the urban logging company that has been disassembling the Globe grain elevator complex in Superior since 2006, is on this season of the History Channel series “Ax Men.” The work crew goes by Wisconsin Woodchuck — the name of Old Globe’s parent company — and gets its debut on an episode that airs at 8 p.m. today.
“We have a pretty compelling story,” said Judy Peres, CEO of Old Globe, the company in which she and her partner David Hozza have invested time, energy and money for years. “It’s a little different from what (“Ax Men”) has been doing, but it’s a good story. It’s about harvesting wood, just that we’re not harvesting it from rivers and fresh forests. We’re harvesting from buildings that were built 125 years ago.”
“Ax Men” provides documentary-style footage of logging crews around the country, highlighting the job dangers, group dynamics and obstacles.
Past seasons have included crews that work in forests in the Pacific Northwest or at watery work sites in the South.
Peres and company are taking apart the Globe complex, which includes 6 million board feet of old-growth white pine. They’ve been at the learn-as-they-go project since 2006.
At one point in Sunday’s episode, Hozza says to the film crew: “We’re in over our head.”
They’re in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Peres said, and she is hoping the show will attract the attention of someone who will partner with them. Peres said she’s concerned about the fate of the wood, and the environmental effects, if they are forced to walk away from the elevator complex.
“This is a rare and precious commodity,” she said. “It would be a terrible waste if it wasn’t used. The alternate to saving the wood and reusing it is that the wood will either end up in a landfill where it will decay gradually, or it will be burned.”
That’s 7,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide that will be released into the atmosphere, Peres said.
“Either slowly or quickly,” she added.
Michelle Niland, co-executive producer of “Ax Men,” said they were drawn to Wisconsin Woodchuck because of the uniqueness of a crew working at a construction site.
“We’re always looking for something that feels different, that feels like a new process,” Niland said. “It had all these things.”
Preliminary interviews showed the Wisconsin Woodchuck workers were comfortable on camera, had an interesting process and had personal stakes involved in the company’s success.
“A lot of people can identify,” Niland said.
The film crew spent three to four weeks filming in Superior last summer, and Wisconsin Woodchuck will be featured in five episodes, Niland said.
Viewers on Sunday will be introduced to the storyline: Wisconsin Woodchuck has gotten a contract for 130 truckloads of timber and they have eight weeks to get it done. If they can’t, they’re doomed.
Meanwhile, they have to contend with an equipment issue.
“It was actually a lot of fun,” Peres of the filming process. “We had outsiders looking at everything we were doing. We were all miked up. We were all carrying walkie-talkies. Some of our guys are wearing little tiny cameras on their hard hats so you can see the action from their point of view.”
The film crew occasionally interrupted work to get background on what was happening. Mostly it was business as usual — though maybe a little more intense.
“If anything, the camera gives you license to shout a little louder and swear a little more. Some of our guys, maybe all of us, were playing to the cameras,” Peres said
Also featured on Sunday’s episode: Fast-talking, quirky Shelby “Swamp Man” Stanga, hunting down a major payday in Louisiana waterways; fisticuffs with a crew based in Washington; and S&S Aqua, a family operation in Florida that is in flux: The father, Jimmy, is ill, and son James is taking on more responsibility.
There is one other newbie in Season 6. Dreadknots, a group of toughies working on the Withlacoochee River in Florida, use a technique called “Redneck Sonar.” That entails firing a gun into the river and gauging sunken log potential by whether the shot makes a specific ping noise.