Hillside Millworks & Design was born out of Josh Smith’s promise to his wife, Emily.
“We were living on college furniture,” he recalled with a laugh. “I made her a promise I would build her an entertainment stand, and she held me to that promise.”
A neighbor saw Smith’s handiwork and asked if he could make an end table.
“I said sure,” Smith recalled. “Emily said ‘You have no idea how to make an end table.’ ”
But he figured it out. As word of his talent began to spread, the couple decided to go into business full-time in 2018.
Prior to that, Smith was working as a youth pastor at a church in New Philadelphia. He’s a graduate of Malone University, where he majored in Bible, theology and youth ministry.
“Everything we do is 100% custom,” Josh Smith said. “Nine times out of 10, no two pieces are the same.”
Every piece, he said, starts with a conversation on what customers are looking for. All items are made from locally sourced, solid wood.
“A lot of people’s ideas come from Pinterest, which is my best friend and my worst enemy,” he said, laughing. “I hear what the purpose is, how they plan to use it. I explain the process to them. The goal is how can we help enhance the space?”
High-school sweethearts who graduated from East Canton High School, the Smiths married in 2014. They currently reside in a home once owned by Emily’s paternal grandmother. The millworks is on the grounds.
Emily marvels at her husband’s talent. Among his various projects, he’s mastered the very difficult art of transforming wine barrels into retractable tables.
“I’ve known Josh since I was 15 years old,” she said. “It’s amazing to see his projects, then to see the finished project. It’s just amazing.”
Smith said he never took any classes or training in design but grew up doing construction projects with his father.
The couple started Hillside Millworks & Design with $300.
“The business has funded itself,” Josh said.
Emily said growing a small business takes patience.
“I grew up seeing small businesses,” she said. “My family owned a small dairy, Walker & Son Hillside Farms. There’s so much teaching that can be done. We’re very family-oriented. With the name ‘Hillside,’ it’s kind of full circle.”
In addition to the millworks, the couple has raised funds through hat and T-shirt sales to benefit families struggling with infertility. They themselves are in the process of adopting frozen embryos.
Josh said he’s on pace to build 75 custom pieces this year, plus smaller items such as cutting boards. They contract with Amish craftsmen to install the hardware and to do wood staining and painting.
His most challenging project?
A church pulpit.
“Everything was at an angle; nothing was square,” he said. “I was literally out here doing trigonometry. It was very difficult.”
“But it turned out beautiful,” his wife said.
To learn more, visit their website at hillsidemillworks.com.