Real Antique Wood was founded on a dream when owners Gary and Lisa Horvath saw the opportunity to salvage old wood and give it new life. With a long history in the wood flooring industry through ATC Hardwood Flooring, it was the natural next step to open a reclaimed wood mill.
“We love old wood. We also love a good story,” says Gary. “When we hear of old barns that are being demolished, we jump at the chance to save them. We rescue this wood and then we turn it into something remarkable. We like to think that we are preserving and continuing the story of every beam, barn door, and board.”
Little did Gary realize when he made a casual suggestion to one of his team members that she should make a sales call to Landry’s, Inc. that the next chapter in the Real Antique Wood story would include a foray into Hollywood stardom.
Gary shared, “I enjoy watching shows like The Prophet, Shark Tank and Billion Dollar Buyer. A couple of months ago while watching Billion Dollar Buyer, I realized that Landry’s used a lot of reclaimed wood in their restaurants, hotels and casinos, and thought it would be worth our time to reach out and see what their needs were.”
So the sales team contacted one of Landry’s interior designers for potential business. The designer said they would put Real Antique Wood’s information on file for future reference. Shortly after, a television production company contacted Gary and Lisa for a Skype interview.
“I was a little confused; I was thinking what does a production company have to do with Landry’s? I didn’t know what was next. I thought maybe they were going to do a show and they were going to buy some wood from us,” says Gary.
As it turns out, Real Antique Wood had caught the attention of chairman and CEO of Landry’s, Inc. and host of Billion Dollar Buyer, Tilman Fertitta. Fertitta oversees a number of nationally known dining and entertainment brands, including McCormick & Schmick’s and Golden Nugget Hotels & Casinos. With these and other businesses under his purview, he has tremendous buying power. In each episode, he spends time with two small businesses, sampling their products and getting to know their owners.
After sharing his expertise and pushing for improvements to the firms’ products, Fertitta decides whether to place a significant purchase order with one of the companies, both or neither.
After a thorough review of the company and completion of multiple contracts and paperwork, Real Antique Wood was cast as a small business for the show. Next thing the team knew, filming was underway followed by a trip to Houston to tape the boardroom meeting.
“It was fun and they let us be ourselves; we didn’t have to act,” says Gary. “Tilman gave us a lot of good business suggestions related to handling our inventory, producing a print catalogue and finding good employees. He really wanted us to be prepared for the future and to cue up more business.”
“I had such a great time with the whole experience,” added Lisa. “We know that we have a really good business here and hearing it from someone like Tilman who has billions of dollars is so cool. It’s great to learn from somebody like him.”
The episode aired Jan. 3, and with amazing results. In the boardroom, Fertitta placed an order with Real Antique Wood for benches for his new Italian restaurant, Grotto Ristorante, totaling $9,850 and also offered to purchase 250,000 board feet for three of his Saltgrass Steak House restaurants bringing the total order to more than $600,000.
As a result of the order the team has expanded operations by adding an additional drying kiln and has one more on order.
“We couldn’t be happier,” says Gary. “As a small start-up, this is a life changing opportunity, and we get to share our passion more broadly.”
He continued, “I love what I do; our wood is sourced from farms that have been passed down from generation to generation. When we arrive at the site, it’s not just a chance to gather materials, but also an opportunity to learn about the barn, family, and community surrounding the barn. Oftentimes we receive old family photos, antiques from inside the barn, and a brief history lesson that we’re excited to share with the future owners of the wood.”
Watch the episode at: cnbc.com/billion-dollar-buyer.