HURRICANE, W.Va. — Matt Snyder laughed out loud. “Oh my, a bunch!” he said.
That was Snyder’s instant response when the owner of Bear Wood Company in Hurricane was asked how many wooden Christmas tree ornaments in the shape of the state of West Virginia he sells.
The company began selling the ornaments three years ago, after Snyder — who had left a high-pressure job at a local TV station — decided to launch a business devoted to handcrafted, rustic home furnishings, along with his wife, Angela.
The state ornaments, which sell for $10 each, have boomed in popularity since they began crafting them, Snyder said.
“I would say we were selling them by the dozen. And now we’re selling them by the hundreds. We’re probably in the thousands at this point. We’re making tons of them,” he said.
“West Virginia,” Snyder added, “is in demand.”
Much of the rustic wood furnishings the company crafts — from tables, wood carvings and shelves to larger, wall-hanging outlines of the state — are cut from recycled wood, which Bear Wood Company crews scrounge from across the region. The company also puts out the word to anyone to let them know of a fallen barn or wood somewhere that might be reclaimed.
“We primarily use reclaimed wood,” Snyder said. “The other day, we were in Pliny, West Virginia, and we were recovering a barn there.”
But the state ornaments are made from original wood. Reclaimed wood contains old — often handmade — nails, and the machine that cuts out the ornaments “doesn’t like nails,” he said. “So we have to be really careful.”
The ornaments come in a variety of woods.
“We make them from oak, poplar, some walnut — whatever wood is available to us,” Snyder said.
The ornaments also come in a variety of state shapes, including Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina, California, Virginia, Texas and New York.
After the West Virginia ornaments are cut and punched out from a thin panel of wood, they are smoothed on a sander and a hole is drilled into the top — just about where Wheeling would be in the Northern Panhandle.
The ornaments are then then dipped into various colors of stain, dried and have a ribbon looped through them for hanging.
If you want the ornament personalized, Snyder will direct you to another local business, Marisa Made, an illustration and hand-lettering business Marisa Jackson runs from her St. Albans home.
“She buys the ornaments at wholesale cost and turns around and does her magic to them,” he said. “It’s kind of a neat. A small business helping a small business.”
Jackson said she began taking requests to paint names on the state ornaments about three months ago.
“They’re pretty popular,” Jackson said.
She has embellished about 300 of the ornaments, which she then sells for $14.
“It’s a lot in a couple months,” she said.
She had never sold ornaments before, and also does wooden Christmas tree ornaments from Bear Wood in the shape of a cat or dog, which can be personalized.
Jackson, who also sells her work through Etsy at etsy.com/shop/heymarisamade, has been pleased to see the reaction to her embellishments of locally crafted Christmas ornaments.
“This was a nice thing for Christmas to be able to do some calligraphy on ornaments for people’s gifts,” she said.