Horigan Urban Forest Products


An interview with Erika Horigan, owner of

Horigan Urban Forest Products, Skokie, Illinois

How did your business get started?

We first thought of the idea of milling urban logs in the late ‘70s. My husband Bruce, who is a certified arborist, was working in the tree care industry. He could hardly believe how many good milling logs were going into the landfill. We started our own tree care business but sold it to Davey Tree. Then in June 2003 we launched Horigan Forest Products Inc. committed to recycling urban trees throughout the Chicago area to their highest possible uses. We make hardwood lumber out of the same types of trees that get used for firewood and mulch. In many cases we know the address of where the tree came from and its history.

What is your urban wood business model?

It’s really evolved over the years. In the beginning we had a sawmill and dry kilns. Then as we grew we moved into a larger facility so that we could inventory and sell lumber. Today we operate a tree care business, custom mill and dry our own urban logs, have a warehouse and retail shop and even make custom furniture and other wood products for our customers.

Who are your customers?

We sell to anyone who uses kiln-dried hardwood lumber. We sell to homeowners, furniture makers, crafts people, and builders for products like flooring, roof decking, and wall cladding. Our customers are just about anyone who can find something that sparks their interest, whether that is a unique piece of hardwood lumber or a finished cutting board or turned bowl.

What resources have helped your business succeed?

Two of our best resources are Wood-Mizer and Nyle Kilns. These companies have helped us become better sawyers and kiln dryers.

How do you promote your business?

We look for opportunities to present our business to builders, architects, interior designers or any professional group that is interested in urban lumber. These face-to-face meetings tend to be the best return for our investment. Other avenues we’ve used include Google Ad words and occasionally advertising in publications. We also send out a newsletter to customers in our database, maintain a website and post to Facebook and Instagram.

What is the best lesson you have learned about your customers?

Folks generally need to hear of or see our business a few times before they become our customer. So, we know it’s important to get the word out there about the environmental benefits and of our products as best we can to generate results down the road. You never know!

What are your top challenges working with urban wood?

Maintaining properly climate-controlled storage and adjusting from Chicagoland’s cold, dry winters to its hot, humid summers, is a constant battle. Even though we dry kiln our lumber, it still has to be stored in a controlled environment so that it won’t lose moisture in the winter and gain moisture in the summer. It takes a lot of space to process and store lumber.

What do you love most about working with urban wood?

I most enjoy the unique “character” of urban wood. I think it’s one of the main reasons our customers seek out urban lumber. Trees that grow in an urban setting our subject to stresses that can make the wood challenging yet interesting to work with.

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The Urban Wood Network is funded in part by the USDA Forest Service, State & Private Forestry, Cooperative Forestry, and the USDA Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory.  The Urban Wood Network provides equal employment opportunities (EEO) to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetics.