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'A labor of love'

The air is filled with the smell of sawdust at Cedar Depot in Tioga, where three craftsmen spend their retirements building one-of-a-kind handmade items out of local trees and reclaimed wood.

Cedar Depot is located on the south end of Tioga, set back from U.S. 377, in a 113-year-old train depot filled with antiques. The property owner, Doug Phillips, relocated the former Santa Fe train depot from its original location in Sanger.

Phillips, a former pharmacist, turned to his passion for antiques and working with his hands after concluding his career. He and business partners Andy Hay and Everett Cummings creates custom mantles and furniture pieces worth thousands of dollars.

Hay, a retired emergency room nurse, said retired life was simply too dull to continue without working.

“I was bored — very very, bored,” Hay said.

The work is rewarding, Hay said, and he takes pride in providing high quality to his customers.

“It’s more of a labor of love and fun. It’s definitely not about the money,” Hay said.

Cedar Depot specializes in roofing and fencing as well. The team uses everything, including reclaimed telephone poles, to construct its crafts.

“We have two fully operational mills that run five days a week,” Hay said. “We mill anything we can get, whether it’s cedar, hardwoods such as walnut, pecan, oak, cotton wood, conifers like cedar, pine, Douglas fir, ponderosa pine.

“About 98 percent of our material that we run through the mill is local – within 50 miles of here.”

Cedar Depot uses customers’ own trees to build custom pieces for inside the home. Some of the lumber has sentimental value.

“About 25 percent of our customers bring their own tree in that maybe was on grandpa’s land, and now they live on grandpa’s land. They want something to remember,” Hay said.

“We make a table or we make a mantle, and now they can say, ‘Here’s the tree that grandpa planted in 1901’ or whatever the story is behind it. There’s now a story attached to that artifact.”

Hay said Cedar Depot’s customers are looking for high-end items, so the company holds itself to a high standard.

“I would say 99 percent of our customers are amazed,” he said. “It’s typically above what they were expecting.”

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