Chirpwood gallery, coffee cafe has bigger picture in mind
After three years at IBM, two degrees from Auburn University and 25 years teaching high school, Scott Moody, owner of Chirpwood in Opelika, has settled down in his third career, his "doing good" career.
Moody said he's at the point in his life where he wants to have a purpose — he wants to be helpful.
He thought for a long while on what his next step would be. His passion for woodworking and the timber business came to surface.
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"I used to go to Lowe's with a notepad and would take notes of things made of wood there," Moody said. After narrowing it down, he began work on picture frames and birdhouses.
Hence the name, Chirpwood. They began business online selling picture frames and as the business grew, Moody dreamt of getting his business out of his garage and into a place worthy of the art. Moody said his wife was ready, too.
Chirpwood took physical presence in a small white building last year in Opelika and frame making continued there. While planning the business and crafting its purpose, the force driving his expedition, Moody began working with Bridge2Rwanda Scholars Program, "which has helped 85 Rwandan students earn more than $18 million in scholarships to more than 45 universities in five countries."
"We believe that the students from Bridge2Rwanda are going to be the change agents in Rwanda," Moody said.
At the time of the interview, Moody was packing for a flight back to Rwanda, where he teaches math to Rwandan students. His passion for the organization fueled Chirpwood's development and half of Chirpwood's profits go to Bridge2Rwanda.
"I'm just an old math teacher," Moody said. "I'm a tiny part of this huge plan."
When stateside, Moody focuses on Chirpwood, which is simultaneously focusing on his mission work with Bridge2Rwanda. The space Moody rented offered more opportunity than originally planned, which led him to the addition of a gallery.
"My best customers are artists and there didn't seem to be a great location around here for local art," Moody said. "We got to work and came up with three gallery rooms. Everything in those rooms is mostly Auburn or Alabama or Southern connections."
Moody said once space opened up and friends started telling others about the openings, artists began stopping in and asking to display their work.
Work from Auburn employees and connections of Moody's are displayed throughout the gallery. Many of the artists displayed have chosen Chirpwood as their primary frame designer, Moody said.
"There are a whole lot of people that are talented out there and I just want to showcase as many as I can," Moody said.
Each piece is displayed in a handcrafted Chirpwood frame. All frames made start from scratch lumber, Moody said.
Moody said most mass-produced frames start as plywood and are covered with materials that resemble certain types of wood. Moody said the wood used for frames is Southern Yellow Pine, the most sustainable pine on the planet.
"Our wood is wood," Moody said.
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Just across a skinny hall, the smell of lumber seeps out of a door that leads to where scrap wood is transformed into the frames showcasing Auburn's art scene.
Shorts, or leftover strips of wood from other projects, lie in a stack on the ground ready to be cut, sanded and painted for the next customer.
Sawdust shoots out every which way as Cody, Auburn student and Chirpwood employee, sands a bare frame. Moody scans his work and shakes his head.
"That looks just awesome. That's exactly what I wanted," Moody said.
Frames can be crafted specifically for individual works of art, Moody said. While looking at his Auburn diploma framed by an orange and blue Chirpwood original, Moody said he wanted a subtle school-spirted frame that captured the school colors without looking unnatural.
"All frames are special and unique to each owner," Moody said. "I like to do what I like to do."
We don't do uniformity here, Moody said. He pointed at the holes, discolorations and natural marks in the wood — "I love this stuff."
Large corporations produce flawless frames and my customers choose to come here, Moody said.
After putting use to the gallery rooms and the workspace in the back, Moody found himself tossing and turning at night, thinking about his one remaining space.
The Nest. "It's your place when you aren't at your place."
"It's not a coffee shop," Moody said. "We don't have a barista or the room." He said he wants the guy that will stay for three to four hours and doesn't want to get run out.
It's a clock-in, clock-out coffee den for the quiet student studying, the reader or the thinker. Once clocked in, everything available is for the taking, Moody said. The sunlit rooms are filled with Moody's creations, from the tables to the design of the walls encompassing the den. Moody laughed and pointed at the desk in the corner.
"I even gave up my desk for this space."
Visitors pay by the hour and can choose from coffee, tea, bagels, grits, oatmeal, fresh fruit and cookies. Moody said he thought very hard about The Nest.
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"I want you to treat this place like your own," Moody said. "If you were at your house you would sit where you want to sit, eat what you want to eat and stay put for as long as you need."
After explaining his reasoning for all of the nooks and additions to his business, Moody found a way to draw a connection right back to the reason he chose his third career.
"My purpose was to have a purpose," Moody said.