Almanac

Community - March 19, 2014

Business: Working with wood on a new level

by Jane Knoerle

The name of the new store at 846 Santa Cruz Ave. in downtown Menlo is Menlo Hardwoods. But don't go looking for samples of hardwood flooring. Instead, encounter a stunning array of hand-crafted solid walnut furniture made into dining, kitchen, coffee and library tables, bar tops and center islands.

You will also find a sophisticated array of household accessories in a setting that could be as at home on Fifth Avenue in New York City as Santa Cruz Avenue.

Menlo Hardwoods owners are George Bazlamit and brother-in-law Mike Balat. The boys grew up in San Francisco. Both their families were in trades. Mr. Bazlamit runs the store in Menlo Park and Mr. Balat, a custom cabinet maker for 25 years, works in Modesto crafting furniture from reclaimed walnut trees.

"We're a tree to table company," says Mr. Bazlamit. "We start with the whole log. Everything is reclaimed. In the Central Valley there are many walnut-producing farms that went dormant. We'll find an old barn filled with logs that have been out of the ground for 50 years or pick up logs in a field that have been down about 30 years."

All the finishes on the wood are completely green, certified by LEED, Mr. Bazlamit says. "Everything is natural. No veneers. Walnut is a very durable wood. It will take a fair amount of abuse."

Well-to-do clients and their designers keep the store busy. "Right now, we have 11 custom tables Mike is building. Eighty percent of our work is custom. We do a lot of tables for Tahoe," says Mr. Bazlamit.

A black oak burl adorning one wall will soon hang in a wine cellar in Pebble Beach. A table is awaiting shipment to Rancho Mirage.

Along with the stunning display of woods is a delectable assortment of home accessories. A rack holds table lines from Belgium. There are gorgeous ivory papier mache bowls, handsome quartz specimens in amethyst and white, Heath ceramics, table displays of succulents, cutting boards and spoons of Claro walnut, candles in recycled wine bottles, wrought iron candlesticks, and a selection of coffee table books.

The best selling book so far is "Guide to Urban Moonshining: How to Make and Drink Whiskey." "We've sold a ton of these," says Mr. Bazlamit.

If your experience with hardwoods has only been those hippie redwood burl tables sold at flea markets, you owe it to yourself to visit Menlo Hardwoods. This unique store is one of the reasons Menlo Park is becoming an important destination for home decor.

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