Southern Restoration Furniture’s Marc Ventry

Sunday afternoon, Wheat and I pulled up to an unassuming metal warehouse in downtown Quincy, Florida.  The only indication it wasn’t abandoned was a mailbox labeled “VENTRY,” and a box fan in an open sliding door.  Marc Ventry met us at the steps and led us to his “office:” a 2500 Chevy truck.

Marc Ventry | Oysters & Pearls

Marc pulled from the back of his “office” what we had come here for: a custom-made cutting board just for me, painstakingly built out of heart pine tobacco slats from his family farm.

Extra Large Custom Tobacco Slat Cutting Board by Marc Ventry | Oysters & Pearls

24″ by 24″ inches of gorgeous heart pine, steeped in history.

Custom Tobacco Slat Cutting Board | Oysters & Pearls

In case you’re wondering what tobacco slats are,  or even what heart pine is, let’s have a quick lesson.

Heart pine is the center of a pine tree, which is prized for its hardness, strength, longevity, resistance to rot, and beautiful coloration.  Old heart pine is most often from the center of the enormous long leaf pine trees that once blanketed the South.  Long leaf is a slow growing pine, and once the century old stands were felled for timber, the trees were most often replaced with slash pine, which is quick growing.  Between their short-lived replacements and lack of controlled burning, long leaf pines are pretty hard to find these days, especially in the numbers they once were.  The Nature Conservancy and some private landowners have made a big effort to restore the long leaf and wiregrass ecosystem, especially in my hometown of Bristol, Florida… But that’s another story for another day.

Back to the boards.  This part of North West Florida and South West Georgia was prime shade tobacco farming land back in the day (and some of it still goes on – our good friends at Hopkins Farms still farm tobacco).  Shade tobacco from the area was used as the outer wrapper on cigars.  When the tobacco was harvested, it was strung up on tobacco slats and hung in barns to dry.  Those hundred year old long leaf pines were turned into tobacco slats about eighty years ago, making this wood easily a couple hundred years old today.

Tobacco farming around these parts essentially went the way of the dinosaur by the 1970s, and many farmers turned to tomatoes.  The tobacco slats were repurposed for tomato stakes (or fire kindling), and the tobacco barns were repurposed into furniture and wedding venues.

But fortunately, some farmers just piled the slats up and shut the barn door.  Thus some of these slats are still around, and folks like Marc Ventry are turning these vestiges of farms past into present works of art.

Marc generously allowed us to poke around his workshop, and he even showed us how he makes his cutting boards, step by step.

First, Marc planes each slat down and glues them together with food-grade glue, clamping them together until the glue is dry.

Glued and Clamped Tobacco Slats for Cutting Board | Oysters & Pearls

Once the glue is dry, Marc has the bare bones of a cutting board.

Tobacco Slats Glued Together for Cutting Board | Oysters & Pearls

Beautiful, beautiful bones.

Tobacco Slats, Glued Together for Cutting Board | Oysters & Pearls

Even at this stage, you can tell this is going to be something special.

Edge of Unfinished Tobacco Slat Cutting Board | Oysters & Pearls

Next he runs the entire thing through his planer and cuts it in half crossways.  This way, the finished sides will match up perfectly.  He places more planed tobacco slats perpendicularly between the two sides for reinforcement and to keep it from bowing.  This, in turn, makes the edges the very prettiest part of the boards.

Tobacco Slat Cutting Board, Edge Detail | Oysters & Pearls

On the edge, you can see how the tobacco slats match up on both sides of the board, the wide color and pattern variation between the slats, and the care with which each slat was chosen and placed.
This attention to detail is what sets these cutting boards apart and makes them true works of art, rife with Southern history and family heirloom potential.

Finally, Marc rubs the finished boards down with a homemade mixture of oil and beeswax… from his own bee hives.

I know.

He even has his own line of beeswax products called Nunya Beeswax, which is completely awesome, and includes scented hand balm and chapstick.

Nunya Beeswax | Oysters & Pearls

Fortunately for me, he brought me these to sample.  I have since retired my Burt’s Bees chapstick, and I’ve been carrying one of each of these around with me at all times.  I love that the hand balm is lighter in my purse than a bottle of lotion and poses no risk of spillage.  And the lavender smells divine.

To top it all off, this renaissance man, who is even an organic farmer, builds furniture.  In addition to custom pieces for local furniture haven H&H Furniture in Havana, Florida and private clients, he also builds shabby chic furniture out of his collection of odds and ends and a plethora of old doors.

Old Door, Soon-to-be Shabby Chic Table | Oysters & Pearls

This door is destined to be a glass-covered table, and will eventually be available for sale, along with Nunya Beeswax products and his tobacco slat picture frames at Miss Mandy’s Cottage Living in Tallahassee, Florida.

Custom Tobacco Slat Picture Frame by Marc Ventry | Oysters & Pearls

This is a custom tobacco slat frame built for a customer that Marc happened to have on hand to show us.  A frame (or two, or ten) is next on my list of things to acquire from the Marc Ventry inventory.

Custom Tobacco Slat Picture Frame, Corner Detail | Oysters & Pearls

There has been a slow tip-toeing back to shopping local, back to caring about where our food comes from, back to purchasing high-quality, handmade goods.

Marc is a living, breathing testament to all of the above. We call products like his cutting boards “artisanal” these days because you can’t buy them at a mall.

I’d rather visit a saw-dusty warehouse and have a beer with an “artisan” any day.

Tobacco Slat Cutting Board | Oysters & Pearls

You can find Marc Ventry’s “artisanal” work at these fine local retailers:

Southern Restoration Furniture:
Miss Mandy’s Cottage, Tallahassee, Florida

H&H Furniture & Design, Havana, Florida

Nunya Beeswax:
Native Nurseries, Tallahassee, Florida
The Honey Tree, Tallahassee, Florida
Sew Woodstock, Bearsville, New York
Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese Shop, Thomasville, Georgia
The Queen Bee, Havana, Florida
Shine Jewelry Boutique, Tallahassee, Florida

For custom work inquiries, email Marc at marcventry@gmail.com.
You can purchase his tobacco slat cutting boards, frames, and see more of Marc’s work at www.southernrestorationfurniture.com

You can follow along with Marc’s many adventures on Instagram @marcventure

This is not a sponsored post. I am simply smitten with these uniquely Southern and “artisanal” local goods.

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35 thoughts on “Southern Restoration Furniture’s Marc Ventry

  1. Jim McClellan

    That was an excellent description and history of lightard! Glad to see artists like Marc preserving history with craftsmanship. And I’m with you on the dusty workshop vs. mall idea!

    Reply
  2. Kendall

    Loooooove. So glad you discover all these amazing finds all near my old stomping grounds (born in Thomasville, family farm in Greenville FL (where I spent half my life), and my whole family went to FSU–that is only where we differ!). Going to have to pick up one of these boards. :)

    Reply
    1. oystersandpearls Post author

      Well we have very similar stomping grounds, it seems! Greenville is really close to Bristol, where I grew up. We were both blessed to call beautiful places home! We can agree to disagree on football teams. :) Tell Marc I sent you!

      Reply
  3. Danna

    Natalie, thank you for writing this. Marc is amazing, I know him pretty well and still I didn’t know all this. Thanks for sharing the incredible work coming out of our town. XOXO

    Reply
  4. Cliff

    Nat ,you should be appreciative of dusty old shops having built birdhouses,etc. when you were little.Only thing Marc needs is an old woodstove to burn the scraps.

    Reply
    1. oystersandpearls Post author

      I know, Doc! He actually did have a wood stove! I felt right at home. I told him about the heart pine cutting boards I already had from another dusty old work shop, too. :)

      Reply
  5. Kay Sykes Siemon

    I grew up in Quincy and visit my Mom often. I will be in Quincy late October through early November. I would like to purchase one of your cutting boards made from tobacco slats. Where do I go?

    Reply
    1. oystersandpearls Post author

      Kay, thank you for commenting! I highly encourage you to make the purchase – you won’t regret it! :) Right now, all cutting boards are made to order, so you’ll need to email Marc to get put on the waiting list. His email is marcventry@gmail.com. You can purchase his other goods, such as the Nunya Beeswax products, at the local stores listed above. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  6. Sharon Miller Cooper

    What a delightful read. I love this “sustainable” story. Beautiful work and a great lesson in history. Thanks for the read.

    Reply
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