Custom creations

Randy and Janet Hofer carve out niche in woodwork at Surprise Creek Colony
Thursday, August 20, 2020
Custom creations

In addition to helping with their hutterite colony, husband and wife Randy and Janet Hofer of Surprise Creek Colony have carved out a side niche through creating exquisite custom-made furniture for fellow colony members and people around the region. They are shown here with their four-year-old daughter Nova. Photo courtesy of Randy and Janet Hofer

Custom creations

Randy and Janet Hofer worked together to design a custom-built, lofted bed for a local customer with a small child, who has a smallish bedroom. It has stairs and railing surrounding a full-sized mattress, as well as shelves under the stairs for storage. It was built at the colony and installed directly in the child’s room. Photo by Melody Montgomery

“The most satisfying thing about my woodworking business is seeing the delighted reaction from the customer.”

- Randy Hofer, woodworker

At the Surprise Creek Colony, each member plays a role in the agricultural-based community’s functioning and self-sufficiency. While many hutterite roles at the colony are traditional, passed down for generations, others have been able to carve out new roles for themselves. In the case of colony members Randy and Janet Hofer, their new niche is carved directly out of wood.

Randy has years of experience working with wood and a knack for creating beautiful pieces. He constructs custom-designed wood products built to meet clients’ specifications. To create custom-made furniture, he primarily uses designs provided by his wife Janet.

True partnership

What began as a pet project during the couple’s downtime in the evenings around a couple years ago has evolved into a steady stream of requests from people across the region. They started small and were encouraged by the positive feedback from fellow colony members and neighbors. New clients find out about Randy through word of mouth, as well as social media.

Past clients also return to Randy to request additional wood furninishing items.

The Hofer's successful start, into what could become a larger business, is aided by the fact that Randy and Janet make a strong team. Janet is originally from Canada with roots in America.

“We met around 12 years ago when Janet toured the great state of Montana,” said Randy.

As an added blessing to their marriage, Janet is skilled in design.

“Starting out on a project, my wife Janet and I, mostly Janet, come up with ideas for the design and construction. My sister Rachel helps us with staining, finishing and packaging. On bigger projects, Daryl and Shane help out with the installation,” said Randy.

Together, with the help of other colony members, Randy and Janet are able to transform something lackluster and ordinary into something extraordinary.

“Working with wood for me is very rewarding in that I can take a bent, ugly looking board in the morning and turn it into something beautiful and useful by the evening,” said Randy. “I love how each different type of wood has its own characteristics, but the most satisfying thing about my woodworking business is seeing the delighted reaction from the customer.”

Trial, error and determination

Apart from running the construction aspect of maintaining homes and structures at his hutterite colony, Randy started building wooden furniture and other pieces around three years ago, he said.

“I learned through trial and error and sheer determination,” said Randy.

He has been able to hone his craft with the help of his wife, for whom he built his first piece – wall art of a river, made of rustic hickory wood and epoxy for the water. After mastering his craft a bit more, he was able to build Janet his first end table, which remains his favorite piece. On the top, he again used epoxy for a river.

How this has evolved in just a little over a year. Randy is currently working on projects for customers like bookshelves and nesting tables, which are tables that look the same but are of different sizes so they can be stacked. They are some of the Hofer’s most popular items, along with tailor boards used for sewing, he said.

On the Colony

Randy is also very busy with his actual job as a head carpenter at the colony, which takes up much of the summer season. Randy is responsible for remodels, construction and building repairs across the colony. Janet also stays busy working in the garden, cooking, sewing, and with their daughter. Still, the couple is able to fit project requests into their schedule.

Fortunately for locals, Randy and Janet are open to challenges and, in turn, are able to create custom furniture what will likely become family heirlooms. In the meantime, they are valued pieces of furniture.

“We both take pride in the fact that we can accomplish building something that somebody would like to have in their living room,” said Randy.

Heirlooms in the making

One example of a valued piece of a custom-made furnishing is an entertainment center made out of rustic hickory that Randy built for Matt Neumann, who ranches near Surprise Creek and teaches school in Stanford. Matt had this made as a gift.

Matt said, “I wanted to get Cali something nice for Mother’s Day. Through photographs on Facebook, I saw what great work he did, so I reached out to him. He was so very easy to work with, and it was good to have something made locally that was such high-quality. It is a very nice piece. It should last forever. Give him an idea, and he will run with it and make exactly what you want.”

Neumann is not the only satisfied customer. Repeat customers are Wes and Stephanie Deegan of Stanford. Randy has made them three items - a china hutch, a hall tree and shelves.

“Wes found him on Facebook, and Wes knows him from the colony,” said Stephanie Deegan. “His work is awesome. We are in love with it.”

While the Hofers build to suit, Randy also has some preferences and can help guide a person when making decisions on his or her piece. He finds there is a current trend with rustic hickory, but walnut is his favorite.

“Walnut is so easy to work with and very forgiving,” said Randy.

Lofted bed

Randy is able to combine hardwoods and softwoods, such as for a custom-built, lofted bed he made for someone with a small child.

For safety, the lofted bed has stairs and railing surrounding a full-sized mattress, as well as shelves under the stairs for storage. The loft adds many square feet of playing space. It was designed for the room itself. Also, the care taken with the staining of the oak and pine makes this custom furniture not only functional but also stunning.

The Hofers were able to design the lofted bed based on a basic photo. It helped that Randy and Janet have a small child of their own – Nova, who is four years old. Janet was able to design railings like a crib would have as well as provide space for the child to sit up in bed and grow.

“We have a little girl about the same height and age, so Janet based it off what Nova would like,” said Randy. “Nova would like to have a nice little camping area underneath and to be able to go up and look down at all her toys.”

Now that Randy and Janet have this design down, they are open to making more of these beds, and even possibly one for their own daughter.

In it for the long-term

Looking to the future, Randy plans to continue to custom build any pieces he is asked to, but his long-term goal is to start a quality cabinetry business.

“I love how you can turn wood into anything you can imagine,” said Randy. “Then it lights up after it is stained, sealed, oiled or lacquered.”

Contact

If you are interested in seeing more of the Hofer’s work, you can readily view it on Facebook. You may contact Randy Hofer through Facebook messenger (https://www.facebook.com/randy.hofer.921) or call him directly at 406-899-0379.

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