Bring the Story Home

Posted on : Wednesday, May 10, 2017


A new downtown shop has brought custom built furniture with a unique history and a meaningful message to Lethbridge. Urban Timber is a small Alberta reclaimed wood business that is family owned and operated. Their business was built on passion, drive and a love for wood. 


Darren Cunningham opened the first Urban Timber in Edmonton in 2014, with his fiancé, Leanne and father Vern. It all started with an ask of Darren if he could build a piece out of reclaimed fence boards, as he grew up around woodworking. Once people started seeing his work and requesting their own pieces, Darren decided to start a business out of it. The company has taken off in three short years and has three stores in Edmonton, Victoria and now downtown Lethbridge. The production facility is in Lethbridge as well, which provides all three stores with the reclaimed pieces.


Ken Braun is the sales manager for the Lethbridge location. He originally joined the company as the production manager and helped the mill get up and running. He has worked on their policy and procedure manuals, he also brought other crew members on board that have a passion and skillset for what Urban Timber does. “We take a lot of pride in the fact that we’ve got very skilled craftsman,” said Ken.


Urban Timber creates custom furniture, pieces, floors and walls out of old wood, and Ken says that’s something that makes them stand out. “The fact that everything we do is custom, that’s kind of the mainstay of the business.”


When looking at product, they look for material that is more than just reclaimed, but wood that has an interesting history.


The front desk in the downtown Lethbridge location is made of old heart pine, which comes out of the original Pabst Brewery building that was built in Milwaukee in 1844. That desk is more than just a desk made of wood, it was crafted specifically to keep its history in mind. 


The flooring in the Lethbridge location comes out of buildings in the Ohio Valley that were built 150 to 200 years ago. The buildings were beyond the state of repair unfortunately, which meant the buildings were tore down. However, this allowed for the wood to be repurposed into beautiful furniture and flooring, thanks to Urban Timber.


Another material that’s popular is the old oak boxcar flooring from Kentucky that is about 80 to 90 years old.


Urban Timber has just started delving into the world of flooring. They currently have two lines in which one could choose from. One they call ‘old growth’ or ‘dead standing wood’ which really plays along the lines of sustainability. The second material comes out of old reclaimed buildings. One of the panels in the store is old heart pine that comes out of a tobacco drying house in the southern United States. “We work with a lot of companies out of the states and there’s just really interesting back stories. That’s a big part of what we do. We outsource some very interesting items,” added Ken.


Darren’s family has been involved in woodworking since he was young. His father Vern constructed and built his entire childhood home while his mother had the patience and eye for the finishing’s of their home. Darren’s mother’s handprint is on many of their early Urban Timber projects. She worked with his father until she was no longer able to help around the shop. Several years ago, Darren’s mother May was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and she now resides in a full-time care facility. Before the crippling disease robbed her of her precious memories, she was involved in the early inception of Urban Timber.


Urban Timber started “Wood to Remember” as a family, to keep May close, as if she’s still working with them. With Wood to Remember, a percentage from all dining tables goes directly to the Alberta Alzheimer’s Association in hopes of finding a cure. Every year the family is also directly involved in the “Face Off for Alzheimer’s” hockey tournament. With the help of their family, friends and generosity from the Wood to Remember fund they have raised over $100,000 in two years.


“This is so much more to us than just a business. We hope you enjoy making your own memories around our tables, something that is very near and dear to us at Urban Timber.”