Catholic-owned woodshop, Strong Oaks, burns down

First slide

On the evening of April 29, Strong Oaks Woodshop in Front Royal went up in flames. The popular store was known for turning reclaimed wood into tables, chairs and other furniture. Now, owner Michael Schmiedicke, a parishioner of St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal, and his employees are forced to do what they do best: rebuild. 

“Everything we poured our hearts and souls into disappeared within those flames,” the company wrote on its GoFundMe page. “It is a total loss. By the grace of God no one was injured.” The cause of the fire is still unknown, according to reports from The Northern Virginia Daily. Adjacent buildings and several cars were damaged as well. 

Schmiedicke was featured in the May 18, 2016, issue of the Catholic Herald, which highlighted his favorite aspect of the business: creating wooden personalized coffins. After his grandmother died several years ago, he and his brothers made her casket at their mother’s request. Building coffins became one of the woodworking activities he enjoyed most, something he considers a ministry. “The bar stools pay the bills, but if I can slip out from work now and then to make a casket, that's what I'd like to do. It's personally very meaningful work to me," he said in the article.

While the company’s insurance eventually will replace much of what they lost, the lumber Strong Oaks salvaged, often from 100-year-old structures, is irreplaceable. Still, they are looking for ways to keep working. “We’re borrowing tools from friends and vendors, finding sheds and garages to keep our hands going, scraping up every penny we can find to keep our company moving forward,” they said. 

The support of friends and customers has been overwhelming, said Schmiedicke. “I was probably on the brink of despair on Saturday and Sunday, and couldn’t imagine how to pick back up and start again. But I have been so blessed in my friends and so bolstered by the faith of the people who love us,” he said.

To help

To help Strong Oaks Woodshop rebuild, go to gofundme.com/the-strong-oaks-woodshop.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017

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