SILVERHILL — What started as a hobby for a Silverhill couple has turned into a business that is honoring the heritage of their small community.
In September of 2021, Bryan and Ree Chandler received delivery of a newly purchased sawmill on their property in Silverhill.
“It was supposed to be a hobby,” Bryan Chandler said.
They chose the name Silverhill Mill as a nod to the history of the town.
“It’s how Silverhill got its name,” Chandler said. “Workers from the local sawmill were paid in silver and on payday they would go up the hill to get their silver. It seemed fitting to take the name from our history.”
In the beginning, he said, their ultimate goal was to build a house using trees from their property.
While that is still their goal, Mother Nature interrupted their plans when Hurricane Sally blew through the area causing extensive devastation, downing hundreds of trees and the building they used to house the wood for the mill.
While helping the community clean up, Chandler said, they were able to remove trees that were blown down and mill them.
“Since then, we wanted to give those trees a new purpose,” he said. “We want to repurpose the wood into pieces that will live on for generations.”
People began coming out of the woodwork, so to speak, bringing the Chandlers wood to be milled or calling them and asking if they could take downed trees on their property to be milled.
“Word spread, mostly by word of mouth that we had a mill,” he said. “I guess growing up here and my family being from here for multiple generations, I know a lot of people.”
For years, Chandler’s grandparents, Leslie and Elsa Chandler, owned and operated the historic People’s Supply, living upstairs where his father Sidney grew up.
The store is now the location of United Bank, where Bryan Chandler himself has worked as a loan officer for the last 12 years. His daughter, Sydney Chandler Chambliss, also works for the bank at that location.
She maintains the Facebook page for the business. A neighbor designed a logo and all products are stamped by local artist Peco Forsman.
Ree Chandler also works full time as a paraprofessional for special needs students at Robertsdale Elementary School.
“She’s right there with me every day,” Bryan Chandler said. “We both work at the mill in the afternoons and on weekends, while a lot of times I will get up when she gets on the school bus to work at 5:30 and work until 7:30 when I go to work.”
They were able to replace the building with a pole barn made from trees downed by Hurricane Sally and while it is still considered part-time work, Chandler said, they have all the work right now that they can handle.
“We get people who bring us wood for a special project they are working on,” he said, “so, we charge a fee to mill it. We also have people bring us wood in trade, so we will give them half and keep half.”
The Chandlers can mill boards up to 30 inches wide and 16 feet long. They’ve had customers from as far away as Orlando, Florida.
“They have property here in Baldwin County and they were able to connect with us through our Facebook page,” Chandler said.
They have a variety of woods available including black walnut, pecan, white oak, persimmon, red oak, Laurel oak, Sawtooth oak, red cedar, juniper, also known as white cedar, black cherry, Loblolly and long leaf pine, and cypress.
They make custom pieces, including charcuterie and cutting boards, fill custom and specialty orders and live edge slabs.
“I’m not an artist. I can’t even draw a stick figure,” Chandler said. “But I’ve always been a DIY person and I like working with the wood and working with different shapes. I just let the wood talk to me and most of the time it will tell me what shape it wants to be.”
He’s also learning to fix imperfections in the wood, cutting out and filling in knots and fixing splits that would otherwise ruin the wood.
“You can’t always fix it, but I love the challenge,” he said. “To me, the more imperfections there are in the wood, the more interesting the piece.”
Contact Chandler at 251-979-2521 or visit the Silverhill Mill page on Facebook for more information.