Giving the past new life for the future

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Some people look at old barns that are falling down as an eyesore. One Madison county couple sees them as a way to take the past into the future.

On Jeff Road in Toney, you can hear the sound of nature, birds chirping. A few hundred yards away, you can hear the sound of something old being made new again. Inside a workshop behind their home, Kelly and Amy Dawkins-Falter and their son, Darrick Dawkins, are busy at Southern Reclaimed Salvage Barn. They started the business a couple of years ago.

It began with a weekend project in the shop. Kelly built a sliding barn door with his son. “We hung that door up and somebody posted a picture on Facebook,” Kelly said as he turned toward his wife who sat there and smiled. Yeah, that somebody was Amy. “And it went viral with our friends,” Kelly added. “Everyone wanted a sliding barn door.” Kelly built several. Then friends of friends wanted one. It took off from there.

Kelly’s man cave also doubles as an office in the business. It’s where they show customers what they can build for them using reclaimed wood. And there’s a long list including everything from vanities and cutting boards to hope chests and even walls! These guys are wood recyclers. “We are. We are,” Amy said smiling. “We love getting dirty. I never thought I’d say that but we get our hands dirty.”

The love they share for giving an old piece of wood new life takes them to places most people would avoid. They often go into old barns that are literally falling down, structures that hold a lot of memories to the former owner. “Oh yeah, people are attached to their barns,” Amy said. “That's where their grandfather worked. There's probably an old car sitting in there.”

Outside the shop, there are piles of lumber and posts they’ve collected. Some of the wood came from the old Blackwell family farm near Gurley. “We tore that barn down for them and we've been using pieces of that in furniture,” Kelly said. “So it adds not only warmth from having the barn lumber but having a story behind it.”

And there’s a story behind the logs stacked on a trailer in the shop. They’d been in a barn for more than 30 years. “An old farmer had taken to cutting the trees down and he stacked it up I guess hoping to use it or sell it at some point,” Kelly said. After the farmer passed, his son sold the wood to Kelly and Amy knowing they’d give it new life.

Kelly grew up building houses and furniture. Amy spent a lot of time with her dad in his shop as a young girl. But these two enjoy more than the smell of cut wood and sawdust. They’re now etching their way into the future. They’ve added a laser printer and cutter to their business. It can engrave anything on everything from glass and marble to leather and of course, wood. “We both have day jobs,” Amy said. “But it seems like this is growing enough for us to focus on it.” And focusing on preserving pieces of the past for generations to come.