Business

The evolution of RiverCity Woodworks

RiverCity Woodworks owner, Willard Ripley.  - N. Liebermann
RiverCity Woodworks owner, Willard Ripley.
— image credit: N. Liebermann

RiverCity Woodworks has been building custom wood products in Fernie since 1989. From cabinetry and moldings, to interior and exterior doors, if it’s made of wood, they can create it.

“We’re a solid wood company,” said owner, Willard Ripley. “Typically woodworking companies will do a lot of work in panels, like particle board or MDF, panel products that sort of allow you to keep the price down. That’s really our focus that keeps us a little bit specialty, is that we’re making things from real wood.”

Ripley has worked with wood in some capacity since he went to art and design school to study furniture making. A journeyman carpenter and journeyman cabinet maker from New Brunswick, Ripley decided to start his business in Fernie for one reason. “It’s really all about the skiing,” he remarked. “I’ve always been involved in skiing and this is like a little mecca for skiing. Once I skied in Fernie I wanted to keep doing it.”

When RiverCity originally started, they offered a wide range of woodworking services. “We used to build houses, and we used to do a lot of other things like wood flooring,” commented Ripley. “Over the years we’ve just focused more and more on the core skills of the business, what we’re good at, which is building cabinetry, making moldings and trim components for architectural woodwork, and building doors. We really do a lot of doors, that’s a major component.”

He went on to say, “We’ve added on and bought machinery and just grown the business, and we sell all over, it’s not just Fernie. This business is too big to be supported with what goes on in Fernie. So we sell all over the East and West Kootenays.”

RiverCity ships all over the country, and has sent their products to customers as far away as Japan. Their work can be spotted around the City of Fernie; RiverCity created the custom wood door to City Hall, as well as new doors and windows for the Vogue Theatre.

Located just of Highway 3 in Fernie’s industrial area, the door to RiverCity Woodworks is always open for anyone to stop by and check out what’s going on in the shop.

 

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