Yelm has always been in the background for Brian Anderson, a one-man furniture maker and owner of Anderson Woodworks.
He worked in the city briefly before serving in the United States Army for three years, and then served clients in Yelm as a general contractor and eventual business owner operating in Olympia. So when Anderson and his wife, Rachel, decided to relocate and purchase their first home together late in the fall of 2022, Yelm wasn’t their first choice, but it wound up as the perfect fit.
“We almost gave up on finding a house. We were looking to go to Peninsula initially because it was a smaller town, but then Rachel found this house and said, ‘Let’s just check out this one more house,’ ” said Anderson, who offers hand-crafted furniture, cabinets, custom woodworking and furniture repairs. “We got to this house, and we said, ‘This is it. This house is what we want.’”
The pair moved from Olympia to Yelm in January of 2023, and Anderson now runs his business out of their home, located at 16215 Palouse Ave. SE. He said the city’s rapid growth is a good sign that the business will be sustainable in a new location.
“I remember coming to Yelm a long time ago, and it was a one stoplight town and very tiny,” he said. “When we came out to look at the house, we said, ‘Holy smokes, Yelm has really grown.’ The population is the same size as Olympia’s back in the 1980s. It’s nice, quiet and friendly here. We fell in love with it.”
Anderson is a self-taught furniture maker, as he became interested in woodworking as a child after exploring the tools in his late grandfather’s wood shop. After a three-year stint in the 7th Infantry Division stationed in California, he began working at McMeekin Construction in Olympia, where he learned the ins and outs of furniture making and fell in love with it. He enjoyed making furniture for his own home and for his son, but it wasn’t until he earned his first commission for a walnut headboard that he realized he could make a living from furniture making.
“When I finally got that first commission, I was like, ‘Oh, I can do this and make money?’ Back then, side gigs weren’t a thing, but I was starting it,” Anderson said.
In 2006, he took a leap and began doing solo work as a general contractor, but when the economy crashed in 2008, his priorities shifted.
“I had to shrink my outgoing money to survive, and to do that, I decided to work out of my house and get rid of all my special insurances and just do cabinets and furniture,” Anderson said. “I really jumped off a cliff with my decision to go solo, but it’s a really exciting feeling. I always encourage people to do their own business because it’s a game-changer.”
Anderson said that the biggest challenge in being a one-man furniture maker is taking time off, as his projects often take lots of planning, designing and careful crafting. He also teaches classes in hand-cut joinery, including crafting dovetails, stools and side tables.
“I’m the advertiser. I’m the one who markets. I’m the janitor, and I’m just constantly busy. But I love it,” he said. “You gotta love what you do, otherwise you’re going to burn out. The fun outweighs the busy schedule. Any time I get frustrated with things, I just have to stop and take a look around and say, ‘Look what you’re doing, dude.’”
While he admits that business has hit “a lull” as he adjusts to his new location, he said that he has already had two clients since he relocated. Anderson aims to secure a bigger shop with a storefront in Yelm and continue to teach the next generation of furniture makers.
To learn more about Anderson Woodworks and its services, visit https://andersonwoodwork.net/ or call 360-259-0232.
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