As the owner of Hurst Firewood, Inc., Bruce Hurst’s name fits in more ways than one.
According to some language experts, the name Bruce means “from the brushwood thicket” and the word Hurst is said to be old English for “the woods.”
“I’ve always liked being in the woods,” said Hurst.
“I just like being outdoors. And working for yourself is kind of a bonus.”
1. How did you get into this business?
My dad started the company in 1935. I began working with him at an early age to help provide for our family.
2. Who are your customers?
We’ve got lots of customers from all different walks of life. People use wood for heating, ovens, camping, pizza ovens, fire pits — a lot of different things.
We offer specialized fruit woods not readily available anywhere else. We’re getting a following from the barbecue people. Guys come get it for their smokers.
3. What’s a common question you get at your business?
They ask, “Where do you get your wood from?”
I tell them, “From trees.”
4. But really, where do you get your wood from?
We clear vineyards and orchards to be replanted. We use all that wood for firewood. Then we have a saw mill and we can make furniture out of it. At our office in American Canyon we have showroom with table, benches, planters, chairs and stuff like that. Or we use some for birdhouses. Or we grind it up for landscape mulch.
5. What’s a common misconception you get about your business?
We don’t just go out and cut down trees and forests for wood. We only cut wood that has to come down anyway. Instead of burning orchards, we use (the removed trees) to create wood to heat homes.
6. How much does it cost?
Too damn much is what I always tell people. A cord of wood is about $320.
7. What kind of wood do you sell?
We have oak, fruit woods, nut woods and soft woods. Our most popular wood is our mix of hardwoods and softwoods. Ninety percent of what we sell is the mix.
8. What is the biggest challenge your industry has faced?
Extensive regulations from the Bay Area Air Quality Control Management District — (such as) no burn days — and forcing me to replace perfectly working equipment — as new as 2013 models — with newer equipment that meets their standards.
9. If you could change one thing about your industry, what would it be?
Less regulation. Some regulations are good; however, I wish the people that create them would first be required to work in our industry to understand the hardships some of the regulations put on small business owners.
10. If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?
Fishing in one of my favorite high mountain lakes or streams. We used to go to Montana a lot. There is a place there called Elk Lake and Hidden Lake. But we like to fish the lakes up in Oregon. We go up there quite a bit.