When “The Mill” sign went up on an old building on Chillicothe’s Fourth Street that had housed a funeral home for many years, people didn’t know what to expect.
“We had people coming in thinking we were a restaurant or just asking, ‘What do you guys do?’ I enjoy the intrigue,” said Charlie Rusk, who co-owns the business with Brady Miller.
Business has been growing as word has spread that The Mill is a woodworking shop that makes and sells furniture from salvaged wood and architectural pieces.
“Since we’ve started, we’ve been welcomed with a lot of work,” Rusk said. “I get calls daily on new projects. We’re to the point where we think we’re going to have to grow employee-wise just to keep up with demand. It will be two years this May since we opened, and we feel like we’ll be here quite awhile.”
Rusk, a carpenter, and Miller, a general contractor, are long-time friends who came up with the idea for the business after years of working together.
“We had been tearing down houses and barns and kind of stockpiling some of the old wood to reclaim,” Rusk said. “And we just kind of hatched this idea to turn this building into something, and this is what came of it.”
The building at 815 N. Fourth St. had been a funeral home since the late 1800s but had been sitting empty for several years before Rusk and Miller bought it.
“The building is really kind of unique, and I had this vision for it as soon as I first walked into it,” Rusk added. “Brady and I are 50/50 partners in this. He does a lot of the business side of it, and I mainly run the store.”
Rusk and two employees work every day in a wood shop located in the same building as The Mill’s showroom. The employees work 40 hours a week on woodworking, and Rusk said he’d hate to even guess the number of hours he works.
“Probably 80 percent of our business is the custom stuff,” he said. “We do a lot of mantles, farm tables and entertainment centers, all from reclaimed wood. We do shiplap walls, which are hugely popular because people have been watching ‘Fixer Upper.’ In addition to custom work, we have a whole showroom that we’re getting ready to expand this winter.”
The showroom is filled mostly with items built in The Mill’s shop, including handmade tables, desks, dressers and chairs, all made from reclaimed, restored and repurposed wood.
“We have a lot of unique things,” Rusk said. “We even have an old rusty tractor grill in our showroom right now. We’re not an antique store by any means, but we do have some antiques. We mostly do a lot of primitives.”
One of The Mill’s biggest sellers is what Rusk calls a patchwork. “They’re just a lot of the reclaimed woods all together in their natural state. We don’t paint anything. We just put them together in a patchwork,” he said.
Rusk built the first patchwork piece for the Spring Home Show in February 2018, three months before The Mill even opened. “We had done the Home Show for 10 years or more with our home building booth, so we set that up and we set up our little booth for The Mill. The patchwork piece sold right away, so I knew we were on to something,” said Rusk, who owned his own carpentry business for 20 years before opening The Mill.
Since opening, The Mill sells 20 to 30 different types of patchwork pieces every weekend. “They range from $10 little coaster ones to some that are really large and sell for $350. So our store has something for everybody,” he added.
Rusk and Miller, who also owns Millbrooke Homes, will be at this year’s Spring Home Show Feb. 28-March 1 at the Peoria Civic Center.
The two try to take down two or three structures a year, mostly in the Tri-County area. “We take it down for nothing just to have the wood. A lot of people love the idea that their family barn is going to be repurposed,” Rusk said. “I like to reclaim all the doors and trim work from the houses, as well. We probably have 100 doors right now. I repurpose those in almost everything I do.”
Rusk uses old doors for the backs of cabinets that he builds and also for making tables. He used a few to make four rustic tables for Allison Cormack’s new business, Stems by Allison, which will be opening on Second Street in Chillicothe on Feb. 10.
“I had shopped at The Mill and loved their work, so my husband and I stopped in and talked to Charlie and Brady about our idea for farmhouse tables for our (shop’s) gathering space,” Cormack said. “I told Charlie to just do whatever with them, and I am more than happy with how they turned out. I can’t wait to share their beautiful work at our new shop.”
A Princeville native who’s lived in Chillicothe for 20 years, Rusk said he’s been impressed with the resurgence of businesses going on in downtown Chillicothe. He and his parents are even hoping to open some kind of store together on Second Street.
“We’re kind of kicking around about 10 ideas. It’s just something my parents and I are passionate about,” he said. “We love this town.”
The Mill is open from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Customers can call 309-303-6547 or email firstname.lastname@example.org about custom orders.
The Mill also hosts a Second Saturday Market year-round, featuring unique local vendors. The next market is from 10 a.m. To 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, at the shop at 815 N. Fourth St. in Chillicothe.
For more information, visit The Mill’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/themillchillicotheil.