Tree to Table Founders Cultivate Friendship and Business

Ryan Murphy, a registered nurse, came to town from the Cincinnati area about five years ago. After starting work as a nurse, Murphy began to express doubts about her career choice and looked for another way to get the most out of life.

“It’s a lot of student loans, and I had been in school for a long time,” Murphy said. “It’s like, okay, well, you do this full-time for a few years, and it’s like 40 more years?”

To help fill his time away from work, Murphy said his wife, who also worked in the medical field as a pharmacist, would ask him if he was capable of creating arts and crafts that she would meet on Pinterest.

“It’s kind of fun to use your hands to see an image and then you roughly do it, and it’s a very satisfying feeling,” Murphy said. “I think woodworking is a really cool opportunity because it’s tangible, and a lot of the work is intangible.”

The ability to adapt work to life was a plus for Murphy, which was a change from his current work schedule that would prevent him from seeing his wife for several days at a time.

“After doing corporate-type jobs for a while, out of necessity because of debt, it really, really made me appreciate the time,” Murphy said. “I really started to think long enough, it’s like it’s not going to stop, so that’s the track that we’ve kind of been put on, how do we get out of this and maybe try something different where we just have time to be with people.”

After meeting Anttila at church, the two teamed up and began working in the shop of Virgil Otto, a former mentor of Anttila who helped him with his senior design project.

“I just stopped by the shop to see it and found it had about 10 years worth of projects it was behind on,” Anttila said. “He needed a hip replacement so he couldn’t do a lot of physical work, so we started going out there and helping out.”

As payback, Otto began giving the duo advice on their crafts.

After a while, Tree to Table was born, and Otto was more than happy to give up his studio space to help out.

“At that time, we started to realize that maybe there was a business here,” Anttila said. “Neither of us started entrepreneurship, we’ve never owned a business before, but it felt like it could go somewhere.”

In early January 2022, the duo committed to two days a week alongside their outside commitments, however, when business kept the two afloat, they decided to work full time. They also decided to leave Otto’s workshop and store their own equipment in a barn near Stillwell Road in June.

The two say that while they’ve taken a risk, so far it’s paying off. Business has been steady, their most recent achievement; a large community table in the popular student cafe Kofenya Coffee House.

“I feel like the American dream was for you to work for yourself and take risks, and there’s this level of unknown and uncertainty and dependency,” Anttila said. “I think we’re so risk averse as a culture these days, try to go with what’s comfortable, stable, predictable, but often it doesn’t work out that way.”

“Time is more valuable than money,” Murphy said. “And it is tested, but it is good. There is something to work for yourself.

About Florence L. Silvia

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