BRYANTSVILLE — Persistence has paid off for Rocky Top Log Furniture & Railing. After pitching the idea for a TV reality show for more than two years, the Garrard County company has landed a pilot that could become a regular series on DIY Network.
LogHeads will depict how the company juggles the demands of meeting orders for log furniture, erecting log houses and performing a variety of charity work.
"We do more than just furniture, and that's where the show is going to be so exciting," said company founder Tommy Mitchell. "A lot of people really don't know about us in Kentucky, still. I'm just so excited to show the craftsmanship of this fine state."
"It's hopefully going to bring more recognition and business to Rocky Top and grow what we have," said Gwen Mitchell, company president and Tommy's wife. "We have a good crew of people."
The pilot, produced by Media Meld Studios, will be broadcast during the summer, said Danny Tepper, director of original programming and development for HGTV and DIY in Knoxville.
"DIY viewers are telling us that they want to watch documentary-style television," Tepper said. "It's not just formatted shows any more on DIY. We love Rocky Top because they're the real deal."
A film crew has been at the Bryantsville plant, and more filming will be done there. A crew also will film as the company erects a log home to replace a house destroyed by fire near Rough River Lake in Breckinridge County.
LogHeads gets its title from the nickname employees earn once they have shown they can work expertly with wood. The show has its own theme song, written and performed by Wes May and Erica Martin, the Mitchells' nephew and niece, who also live in Garrard County.
Tommy Mitchell started building furniture more than 20 years ago in the garage of his home near Herrington Lake. The company started as Rocky Fork Log Furniture but incorporated in 1997 as Rocky Top Furniture.
Today the multimillion-dollar company employs 58 people at its Bryantsville plant and two sites in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. It makes beds, dressers, outdoor furniture, custom log railing, rocking chairs and swings.
Most of its orders come through the Internet and catalog sales, and the furniture is shipped across the country. The company recently shipped its first export of furniture to Germany.
Rocky Top has designed furniture for Dollywood, Disneyland, Six Flags, restaurants, resorts, hotels and for the Army and Coast Guard.
About 18 months ago, Rocky Top started a division called LogHeads Log Homes. It acts as a dealer and builder for Katahdin Cedar Log Homes, a Maine company that designs log houses.
But the Mitchells have eyed the possibility of television as the next step.
More than two years ago, Winchester native Jason Epperson directed a promotional trailer to pitch the idea of a LogHeads show to producers. The company tweaked that with a new "sizzle reel" that was used to pitch the idea of a show to interested parties.
Tepper said the Mitchells and their workers "are good, strong, upstanding characters who are doing something different than anybody else on television."
The fact that it is a family-based business might have helped, said Tyler Adkins, a graphic designer who handles marketing for Rocky Top.
"I think what popped for producers and Scripps (the parent company of DIY) is that, not only are they juggling all this, but they're also married," Adkins said of the Mitchells. "They have to deal with all this crazy stuff at work, but they have to take it home with them, too."
Television exposure isn't new to Rocky Top. Tommy Mitchell and the company have been on episodes of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and an episode of The Antonio Treatment on HGTV. Company sales spiked after previous television appearances.
Meanwhile, the company continues to do work with various charities. It made furniture for Camp Horsin' Around, a 191-acre site in Boyle and Mercer counties that is a year-round playground for children with chronic illnesses.
More recently, the company made custom beds and furniture for Boulder Crest Retreat, a rural sanctuary for wounded veterans and their families in Bluemont, Va. Rocky Top made beds that were slightly lower so veterans could get into them easily from wheelchairs. The company also makes a vanity that allows for easy access with a wheelchair.
"We get a lot of challenges every week with custom designs," Tommy Mitchell said. "We've got a niche-type furniture line."