The name Garrard Wood Products is something of a misnomer, for reasons other than the fact that it no longer resides in its namesake county.
When asked to specify what medium, exactly, his company works in, owner Bryan Uittenbogaard spun off a list that began with wood and touched on such other materials as Styrofoam, PVC and stainless steel, as well as “more and more plastics — a mix of whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Rather than pigeonhole his business as some sort of carpentry, Uittenbogaard said that a more apt descriptor would be “custom fabricator.” Nowhere have his fabrication skills been tested like the work his Nicholasville-based company has been doing in Coba Cocina.
An engineer by trade, Uittenbogaard’s career ultimately brought him to a company in Lexington. When that company fell on hard times, he decided to buy a local business rather than uproot again. In choosing his new business, he went back to basics.
“I thought, ‘I know how to manufacture things,’” said Uittenbogaard.
He found a small cabinet-door manufacturer that he thought was viable and bought it. The intervening 13 years saw some serious changes, however.
“We were doing 250 doors a day in our heyday, selling throughout Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, etc.,” Uittenbogaard said. “As the economy tanked out and custom homes went to almost nothing, we started looking at other things to build.”
Today, Garrard Wood Products no longer makes any cabinet doors but serves a new market for specialty products. The company currently only employs one other full-time person, but helping them in their new role is a state-of-the-art piece of equipment that brings digital-age precision to their work.
The 10,000-pound computer numerical controlled (CNC) router is the centerpiece of the Garrard Wood Products shop. This router uses computer-aided design, or CAD, to create and design complex and intricate pieces and can handle a 5-by-10-foot sheet of material.
“We can create curves and crazy shapes with the proper programming,” said Uittenbogaard, something that appeals to his engineering background. “To be able to sit down and design something — it’s just a lot of fun, to tell you the truth.”
That combination of cutting-edge technique and sense of fun are exactly the right combination necessary for the complex design of the new Coba Cocina restaurant. For Uittenbogaard, the entire process has been one of innovation.
“We’ve done so many projects — maybe hundreds of kitchens — where maybe one piece would be interesting and unique and require us to think about how to make it,” Uittenbogaard said. “In Coba [Cocina], it’s every piece, every day.”
From the cornice band that runs around the top of the building to integral parts of the main attraction, an 18,000-gallon aquarium, every fabricated piece required an excess of creativity and unconventional thinking, sometimes changing the plans entirely. For instance, the cornice band was going to be molded from fiberglass, but Uittenbogaard discovered that he could cut the piece with his router more efficiently.
“For most of these pieces, the thought is, ‘How in the world am I going to pull this together?’” said Uittenbogaard. “For the first time ever, I’ve had to actually build a model to see how something works.”