Denny Hickman has worked in the sawmill and hardwood flooring industry his entire life, starting as a third generation family member with the Hickman Lumber Company, located in Emlenton, Pennsylvania. In early 2000, he founded Allegheny Mountain Hardwood Flooring, where he serves as president today. Hickman has shared his expertise in lumber drying during numerous presentations at NWFA Expo events, and his company is an NWFA Partner in Education and donates flooring for the Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. program.
Hickman recently was featured on the NWFA Wood Talk podcast, so Hardwood Floors magazine caught up with him to ask a few more questions.
Tell us something interesting about yourself. As an avid hunter and fisherman, I’ve done various backpacking hunts in Alaska and have been face-to-face with a grizzly bear. I’m a lifetime member of the Boone and Crockett Club, and really look forward to teaching my grandkids to enjoy the outdoors.
How did you get started in the industry? I basically was born into the industry. My grandpa started the sawmill during the Great Depression and I grew up working at the mill. There was a short period of my life that I thought I could play baseball for a living, but after playing at Penn State College, I realized I wasn’t as good as I thought. After college, I went to the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA)’s lumber grading school in Memphis, Tennessee, and graduated in 1980.
Who has influenced your career the most and why? My dad was definitely the biggest influence. He’s smart and has always pushed me to be better.
What is your favorite wood floor project that you’ve participated in? The first really big job we had was a 3” x 18” rift and quartered white oak herringbone when the Plaza Hotel on Park Avenue in New York City was being converted into condominiums. It was around 2002 or 2003, and Donald Trump Jr. drove up to the mill and we spent a couple of days showing him around. We’ve had a lot of high-profile jobs since, in museums and government buildings, but the Trump project was definitely one of the most memorable.
What energizes you to stay in the wood flooring industry? I think it’s really cool that we are creating unique floors for homes and buildings that will be around for hundreds of years. My grandfather who started the sawmill, Harry, was also an artist. I love that his art will be in my grandkids’ homes someday. The floors we make are kind of like that, works of art for people to enjoy for generations.
What are you reading right now? I’ve always enjoyed reading books about American history. I’m currently reading “Killing Crazy Horse” by Bill O’Reilly.
Do you have a morning routine that sets you up for success? It varies depending on the season. There’s nothing like getting out in the woods before sunrise for spring turkey season. Spending a couple of hours outside before starting the workday helps keep me grounded.
What keeps you busy outside of work? I do a lot of yard work and enjoy sports, especially Penn State Football and the Pittsburgh Pirates. We host a lot of parties and spend time with my family. There’s also the hunting and fishing that I really enjoy.