UPPER WEST SIDE — For Upper West Sider Paul Kruger, a new business and life goals were born on long, rambling walks on the rocky shore of the Hudson River.
Right next to the water, between West 96th and West 125th streets, Kruger, 32, discovered remarkable pieces of driftwood. Drawing on his artistic training at LaGuardia High School, Kruger began to create sculptures from his finds.
Kruger and his friends then began finding larger pieces of fallen wood on trips to the countryside and in their own backyards, and Kruger realized he could take his hobby one step further.
Last May, Kruger started a business called Fallen Industry, which has a studio and showroom at his apartment at 257 W. 99th St. Taking raw slabs of fallen wood, he planes, sands and finishes them, creating one-of-a-kind wood furnishings for eco-minded customers interested in decorating with modern flair.
"I was surprised by the first sale," Kruger said.
It galvanized him to search for more material from mills that sell fallen wood they can't use for timber.
Kruger won't name the mills he works with in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and upstate New York for fear others will invade his turf.
"There are a handful of mills that do this and from that handful I've weeded out those that have a larger selection," he said.
Most customers want a large single slab of wood made into a coffee table, dining room table, desk or end table by the addition of iron fixtures, pipes or wooden legs, Kruger said.
Fallen Industry has shipped pieces to Los Angeles and Chicago, while in the city many of the company's customers hail from the Financial District.
Every piece is custom-made. Customers can browse the showroom for inspiration and then make requests.
Kruger then goes out in search of a piece of wood that fits their specifications. Once the wood is agreed upon, he asks for a 50 percent deposit, and the piece is typically ready in three weeks, he said.
A coffee table costs between $1,200 and $1,500, a desk between $1,500 and $2,500, and a dining room table between $2,500 and $5,000.
"Width is what usually brings up the price," he said, as does endangered wood that is in high demand, like walnut.
"It's not IKEA, but it's much less than designers charge," Kruger said.
And the fallen wood appeals to customers who like the idea of recycling to create furniture.
"Customers that can afford it can afford to have those kinds of principles," Kruger said.
Kruger's dream is to make Fallen Industry his full-time work. For now, he has to squeeze commissions around his work as a creative director at the advertising company Della Famina — which often means working early in the morning or sneaking down to his basement studio at 2 a.m.
He'd also like to open a store Downtown, eventually.
"The materials are not cheap, transportation is a pain and the work's not easy, but the pieces come out phenomenal," Kruger said.