Originally launched in 2016 as the sustainability branch of Mike Barger's former company, Mike's Tree Surgeons, Inc., Live Edge Detroit was a dream over 40 years in the making.
“We were coming across beautiful logs from tree removal jobs in urban Detroit that I just hated to turn into mulch or firewood. So I finally decided I would mill them and see if we could do something cool with them down the road.” - Mike Barger
Feeling driven by his love of nature, arboriculture and his on-going passion for sustainability, Mike was always broken hearted to see beautiful hardwood logs going to typical waste material, such as firewood or mulch. While these by-products still have a viable use - and while many downed trees cannot be saved, for one reason or another - Mike was able to start selecting higher quality urban logs to mill into usable live edge slabs. After collecting a decent volume of quality logs, Mike hired a friend with a portable mill to come and mill the logs into lumber. He stickered, stacked, weighted and stored them in his warehouse in Troy for over 6 years. When the first wave of wood slabs was dry enough to repurpose, Mike approached his daughter, Jenny [Barger] Kwiecien, and son, Joe Barger, to help him launch his "wood products" business to the public.
Today, Live Edge Detroit is a stand-alone business, operating 2 mills and 2-3 dehumidification kilns at any given time. Jenny and Joe have both taken a step back from the business to focus on other initiatives, both personal and professional. Day-to-day operations are now run by Mike Barger and Jenny's husband, John Kwiecien. The facility is much cleaner and more organized these days, but we still sell our slabs just like we did in the beginning, to anyone interested in giving the wood a new life!
Mike has since retired from Mike's Tree Surgeons, Inc., but still remains in great standing with the cities, business and other tree care companies he worked for, and alongside of, for many, many years. Over the last decade, all members of the Barger/Kwiecien family have played a vital role in running the business, working hard to see Mike Barger's "salvaged urban wood" dream blossom into something greater and greater each day.
MEET THE FOUNDERS
Certified Arborist & Urban Forester
Past President & Founder, Mike's Tree Surgeons
Past President, ReLeaf Michigan
Mike Barger grew up in Royal Oak, Michigan and graduated from Michigan Tech University with a degree in Urban Forestry. After college, he worked for the City of Southfield before starting his own tree care company (Mike's Tree Surgeons, Inc.) in 1984. Mike and his wife, Denise, have two kids, Jenny & Joe, who have both followed in his entrepreneurial footsteps.
Mike has always had a keen interest in environmental conservation and sustainability. About a decade ago, he acted on a dream he's always had for the business: salvaging high quality logs and milling them into new usable material for makers, designers, and builders. In 2016, Mike and his kids decided to put some power behind marketing the dry wood and Live Edge Detroit was born. Mike is now retired from Mike's Tree Surgeons, but still gets to work with wood every day at Live Edge Detroit. When Mike is not working, you can likely find him in the woods hunting, fishing or napping in nature.
jENNY [Barger] KWIECIEN
Jenny [Barger] Kwiecien began her career in Marketing and Advertising at 19 years old. After 3 corporate internships with General Motors she transitioned out of Automotive and went to work for Starz Home Entertainment, where she successfully helped to launch two new brands for their Kids & Family division. Within a few years she landed a role in publishing for PEOPLE Magazine. Jenny worked at PEOPLE until August 2016, when she left to pursue her love of world travel and - of course - to work alongside her family to launch Live Edge Detroit. Jenny was the Managing Partner of Live Edge Detroit for the first 5 years, running all day-to-day operations as well as overseeing all Sales, Marketing, Advertising and Customer Relations. Jenny married John Kwiecien in the summer of 2019, and one year later, decided to take a departure from Live Edge Detroit to welcome and raise their baby girl, Olivia Rose Kwiecien.
Jenny still works behind-the-scenes from time to time, and can often be seen in person, chasing Olivia Rose around the store & warehouse!
Joe, Mike's son, was raised with a love and passion for trees in any and all forms. He grew up in Troy, MI and studied forestry and business with a specialization in entrepreneurship at Michigan State University. After college, Joe's career took him into the business world where he gained extensive experience in finance, logistics, and operational efficiency.
With his knowledge of the urban wood industry on the west coast, Joe helped his family develop a business plan for launching Live Edge Detroit in 2015. Joe and his wife, Emily, returned to Michigan in 2020 and spent the next couple of years helping to oversee Live Edge Detroit after nearly a decade of living in California.
In his free time, Joe enjoys traveling, spending time with Lola the boxer, and being outside as much as possible.
MEET THE TEAM
John Kwiecien was born in Buffalo, NY and moved to Michigan during high school. He attended Eastern Michigan University and pursued various entrepreneurial opportunities – one of which included owning his own patent - and another was opening up his own specialty retail store! John’s store, Trader Jack’s, was a staple in Downtown Plymouth for 15 years. When he closed Trader Jack’s in 2003, John started his own production company, and spent another 15 years as the Executive Producer representing local commercial photographer John Roe. His work with Roe Photo allowed him to travel all over the world, exploring a vast array of different cultures, architectural styles and more. John developed an even deeper appreciation for nature and landscape design through these experiences, and felt compelled to pursue this passion even further. As it just so happened, about the same time, John was introduced to his now wife, Jenny (Barger) Kwiecien through his work at Roe Photo, and her business, Live Edge Detroit.
John and Jenny married in August 2019 and welcomed a baby girl in August 2020. John now runs Business Development & day-to-day operations at Live Edge Detroit. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family, working tirelessly on his 105-year-old Craftsman house and playing fantasy football, when his wife lets him.
James Meek spent his first 15 years after undergrad working for the public school system as an athletic trainer and assistant athletic director. His appreciation for nature and trees began at an early age while traveling to national parks with his family. Woodworking has been a passion and creative outlet for James since 2001.
James says, “Making the transition from the public to the private sector was definitely a big step for me. Ultimately, it was Live Edge Detroit’s vision of salvaging lumber that would have been waste and giving it new life that enticed me. It aligns perfectly with my creative philosophy.” James considers himself a lifelong novice woodworker, as he says there are always new things to learn and perfect.
James lives in Berkley with his wife Brenda and their dogs, Mae & Zoe. He is a live music fan and he is known for always having some music playing, whether at home or in the workshop.
Nicole Rodgers was born and raised in Belleville, MI. She played Volleyball at Marygrove College, and later transferred to Schoolcraft College for Graphic Design. Nicole has always loved design, but wasn't too keen on being behind a computer all day. While she was exploring other opportunities in retail and design, Nicole was blessed with a Christmas gift that changed her life: A Scroll Saw. Not long after, the pandemic hit, and Nicole had more than enough time at home to learn - and perfect - her scroll saw talents. Nicole found her passion: Being able to utilize her background in design, but also work with her hands to create beautiful pieces of art. Through her own business, Lady Wood Goods, and her interest in wood products, Nicole was introduced to Live Edge Detroit via Instagram. When an opportunity arose for Nicole to join the LED team, she jumped at the chance. Today, Nicole works both at Live Edge Detroit and for herself. She often uses locally salvaged wood from LED for her products, and will soon have some of her items for sale in our showroom, too!
In her spare time, Nicole loves to do all sorts of design work, as well as hang out with her rescue dog, Loki.
Jared Walls grew up in Saline, MI and attended Eastern Michigan University for Special Education, with a emphasis in Business. He worked in the school system for 7 years (6 of those as a Para Educator, and the 7th as a Substitute Teacher.) During the Pandemic, when the schools were shut down, Jared worked for a custom cabinet shop, which reinvigorated his love of woodworking. He also enjoys building furniture for his family & friends, and it was during one of his visits to Live Edge Detroit for supplies that he discovered an opportunity to join the team was available. Jared started in the summer of 2022, and primarily handles the Milling Operations, alongside Mike Barger, in the warmer months, and does most of our flattening services during the colder months.
In his free time, Jared also coaches soccer for Saline High School - something he has done since he graduated high school there. He now lives in Waterford with his girlfriend and their rescue dog, Opie.
Stephen Flores was born in California, and moved to Michigan at a very young age. He grew up in the Sterling Heights area and pursued some culinary work after High School. Stephen was working for a sushi restaurant when the pandemic hit, and found himself spending a lot of time refurbishing furniture and doing DIY woodworking projects. He was introduced to Live Edge Detroit through another local woodworking company and joined the team in early 2022. Stephen helps assist with Milling Operations and handles most of our wood flattening and sanding services. He also has a hand in creating many of our showroom finished goods, such as the beautiful serving & charcuterie boards.
In his spare time, Stephen enjoys exercise, and is currently training for some upcoming races. Stephen is newly married and lives in Detroit, with his wife and dog, Daisy.