Almost two years ago, Jake Kerr loaded his U-Haul with his tools, a few duffel bags full of clothes, and about $2,000 in steel and wood, and hit the road back to Southern Pines.
He was just out of the Army, fresh out of a six-month trial run as a financial advisor in New York City — a job he hated — and ready to invest full-time in a hobby he had pursued all his life.
“I did really well in the Army. I was a Major, and had reached a point where I could write my own ticket. But I had already deployed a million times. I had missed all my kids’ births, all their birthdays — if I had taken the next job in the Army I would’ve seen them even less. I had done all the things I wanted to do in the Army, and I wanted to do something new.”
So Jake called Pat O’Donnell, his old landlord, and asked if he could take over the tumbledown garage he had been using for a workspace behind Pat’s pub. Jake put on a new roof, new windows and new doors, unloaded his clump of wood and steel, and Welding Wood was born.
A Business Built on Community
Jake learned welding as a kid from his father, who entered the trade after leaving the Marine Corps. While still on active duty, Jake began working with wood, and eventually started putting the two together. With that, he found a mix of art that set him apart.
In Moore County, he found a wide network of people who he can call on for help when he needs it; including Josh Womack, a firefighter and lumberjack who fell the trees that would become the tables and bar at Hatchet Brewing Co.
“I’ve got a pretty tight network of awesome people — that’s why I could’ve moved anywhere, but decided to stay here. There’s a group of guys here that went through West Point Prep together, and then we went to West Point together, played rugby together, branched Infantry, went to Ranger School together, were in the same units and deployments, and then to Bragg — there’s 6 to 7 guys here right now who have spent the last 15 years of hardship together. Anytime we need something, they’re here to help out.”
Casting a Wide Net, But Keeping it Local
“When I wanted to start the business, I wanted to cast a wide net,” Jake says. “If it’s custom, I can do it.”
Welding Wood’s first big job was a 10-foot long, 4-foot wide conference table for a military-connected training company. On a whim, Jake showed them a photo of a table with an epoxy river running down the middle. Unfortunately, they loved it.
“We had no idea what we were doing,” Josh laughs. “But we figured it out.”
After that came the sign outside the Leadmine on Pennsylvania Avenue and tables at O’Donnell’s Pub. Then came the tables and bar at Hatchet — made from a tree Josh cut down on Midland Road.
The bar is filled with red epoxy, to match the color in Hatchet Brewing Co.’s logo.
“This tree was fell by a local person, taken to a local mill, made into a table by a local builder, and is going back to the local pub,” Jake says. “So there’s a whole storyline there that we’re proud of — it’s about keeping it local and keeping it in the community.”
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