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From Horrible to Beautiful

Splintered wood from tornado now displayed in Clay shop

By Gary Lloyd

CLAY — Kim Steffey is a strong advocate of re-using materials.

The owner of the newly opened McEnally’s Mercantile in Clay, Steffey has lived on a small farm between Argo and Clay for eight years. On Jan. 23, 2012, when an EF-3 tornado ripped through the northeastern Jefferson County area and caused significant damage in Clay, about 120 trees were uprooted on her property. The 30-foot pines that fell crashed between Steffey’s chicken coops, missing them all.

All the wood from the splintered trees was milled, left on her property for a future purpose, a purpose that was noticed by many earlier this month when her store opened on Old Springville Road.

A wooden bin and shelf on the produce side of McEnally’s Mercantile in Clay
photo by Gary Lloyd

“I am so glad to see the mangled wood become beautiful creations in the hand of a local craftsman,” Steffey said.

The craftsman is a friend of Steffey’s, Robert Rutledge. The beautiful creations are inside the hardware, home, garden, grocery, feed and supply store. The creations are displays that hold merchandise, furniture in the corners and signs that line the walls. Those wooden creations, the bins on rollers, shelves and frames were made by Rutledge from oak, cedar and pine trees downed during the tornado.

“It seemed like the logical conclusion to go ahead and use my wood,” Steffey said.

Wood used in the store also came from the Marcus Martin House, a historical 19th century home in Clay that was severely damaged during the tornado and later demolished.

Clay Mayor Charles Webster attended the store’s opening and came away impressed.

“I love that idea,” Webster said of the salvaged wood, noting that someone donated a cedar bench made from trees downed in the tornado to the Clay Community Center. “I think that’s a great idea for her to use that.”

Steffey is proud of the store’s taking a scar on the city of Clay and making it into something positive.

“To me, the tornado was a horrible thing that happened, but seeing something beautiful come out of it was important to me,” she said.

Contact Gary Lloyd at and follow him on Twitter @GaryALloyd.

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