Eric Kohler manages J & J Tree Works. The wood mill has been in business for over 30 years and provides a large array of services, including tree trimming, removal, chipping, crane work and lot clearing.
How did you get into this line of work?
My background is a carpenter and general contractor, but my hobby is creating custom woodworks. I made most of the furniture in my own home. This company was in line with my interests and skills and when a great opportunity to join the company came I almost literally jumped at it. I enjoy every part of the wood service industry. I actually helped build Jesse’s home, the founder of the company, back in 2009 before I worked here. Even back then I would come in to get some wood pieces for my hobby. Now I am working here as the mill manager. I love to support our local businesses and many local businesses come to us for their needs as well. It is a great relationship. I go to Smith Hardware instead of ordering glue online and that type of thing. Local business is really important. We all try to support each other. That is one reason I joined the Saugerties Chamber of Commerce.
What is a common misconception about the work you do?
The general public might not realize that you can take an heirloom tree and make an heirloom keepsake. One heartwarming story I’d like to share is a call we went on where there were two trees very close to a house. It was [the customer’s] childhood home where they had climbed the trees as children. They were very upset about having to cut them down because of all the good memories. So, we made a set of cutting boards and coasters and all the brothers in the family were given gifts of these family keepsakes. I can take almost any tree and do the same for people, from as small as a coaster set up to a large formal dining table.
How are the hours?
I work full-time here but am also available on call 24 hours. We provide 24-hour emergency service. Over the summer we were so busy I worked around six days a week with some ten-hour days. We try to accommodate our customer’s needs in many ways. If a person needs something and can’t get in on a weekday, we make appointments and I come in on Saturday to take care of them.
What makes for a good workday?
Nice weather. I am enjoying these fall days, it’s the best weather ever. Good weather is the start of a very good day. Not humid, not freezing, and not pouring rain. If you aren’t familiar with heavy equipment or ever dealt with an excavator, it has its own temperament and transporting issues.
A bad day?
In the pouring rain it gets very muddy. The tree crew cannot go out in the pouring rain because the mud is very difficult to deal with. The snow is manageable, but in the pouring rain all you can think is, “man, I am wet.” Also, the visibility is bad and is actually very dangerous. Everything we do has a lot of danger, so slippery conditions make it even more dangerous. The crane we have is a 95-foot crane and can lift up to 28.5 tons (way more than any tree, by the way).
What is the most interesting call you responded to?
Last winter a guy called after he heard a crash outside during a storm. He found an oak tree on his car. It turned out that he had just bought the car on Saturday and on Monday the oak tree crashed onto his brand new car. So, we went over to his house and used our big crane to pick up the tree and minimize the damage to his car. It had less than 20 miles on it! He turned into a repeat customer and we removed a lot of trees that could have caused more damage in the future.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
I see myself working here with J & J, I love the company. I envision the company expanding and would love to have a showroom for the custom woodwork pieces we make, and maybe even more wood mills around the county.