Stan Jennings is embarrassed to show visitors the first set of kitchen spoons he carved for his wife, Sue, shortly after they were married.
“They were so clumsy, you couldn’t even use them,” says Stan, recalling the crude result of his initial efforts as a wood carver.
More than 25 years later, wooden spoons, forks, flippers, paddles, and other kitchen utensils produced by the Jenningses’ company, Allegheny Treenware, are used by chefs on every continent of the planet – yes, even Antarctica, and Stan and Sue have the photographic proof to back up their claim. Sue says a Buckhannon woman sent an Allegheny Treenware spoon to her son, who was serving at a military outpost in Antarctica. He sent back a picture of himself and the spoon in bleak Antarctic landscape.
The Jenningses share this story as we sit around the kitchen island in the couple’s Preston County home, which is on farmland that has been in the Jennings family for three generations. Stan grew up on this 45-acre farm, which is a stone’s throw off U.S. Route 50 in Evansville. A long, narrow road that cuts off the main highway passes the old farmhouse, where Stan grew up, before it breaks upon the clearing and bustle of activity that surrounds the home Stan built 30 years ago.
From the blueberry bushes that yield bountiful harvests a few yards from the kitchen door to the buckwheat and other grains growing on the distant hillsides, this is a working farm that puts sustenance on their table year around. Stan estimates that 90 percent of the food they eat comes from their farm.
As home to Allegheny Treenware, this farm also provides income. The business’ sawmill, production shop, warehouse, and offices are located on the farm. Their kitchen even doubles as a test facility for every item they produce. Nothing goes into production until Sue has personally verified its functionality and ergonomics from a cook’s perspective.
“I love to cook,” Sue says. “To me, cooking is an artistic expression and it’s not an everyday chore.”
“That’s good for me,” Stan says. “I like to eat.”
Their product line consists of nearly 200 items, ranging from $6 coffee measuring spoons to measuring cup sets that retail for more than $200. All of their products are crafted from hardwood logs purchased from landowners in the region.
In their peak year, 2002, the workshop turned out 50,000 spoons and used 10,000 board feet of cherry lumber, plus lesser quantities of maple, beech, birch, and walnut. These days, they are using about 7,000 board feet of lumber annually.
Their treenware is sold through an online store, in the Tamarack system of shops, and in many state park gift shops. While wholesale accounts for the majority of their business, Stan and Sue also sell at select arts and crafts shows throughout the eastern United States.
You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.