Business

Garrard Co. company wants its own reality TV show

BRYANTSVILLE — Rocky Top Log Furniture & Railing has been featured several times on network and cable television, and now the Garrard County company's owners hope to have their own TV show.

LogHeads is the title of a proposed reality TV show that would feature Rocky Top founder Tommy Mitchell and the crew of the Bryantsville plant as they help people in need. Jason Epperson, the Winchester native and director who filmed the movie Unrequited in Central Kentucky last year, directed a promotional trailer for the show that can be seen at www.logheads.com.

"We've pitched it to the producers, and they're now trying to sell it to see which network it will land on," said Judson Ridgway, Rocky Top's director of marketing.

Television exposure isn't new to Rocky Top. Tommy Mitchell and the company have been on three episodes of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and an upcoming episode of The Antonio Treatment on HGTV.

LogHeads gets its title from the nickname employees earn once they have shown they can work expertly with wood.

"When you go to log home shows, everybody's a 'loghead,'" said Gwen Mitchell, Tommy's wife and president of the company. "We just joke around and say, 'You old loghead.'"

Tommy Mitchell started building furniture 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.

Today the company employs 30 to 50 people through the year, and in 2009 racked up more than $4 million in sales, Tommy Mitchell said. The company makes 400 items, including beds, dressers, outdoor furniture, custom log railing, rocking chairs and swings.

Most of its orders come through the Internet and catalog sales, said Jason Mitchell, Tommy's son and Gwen's stepson. The furniture is shipped across the country.

"We get a lot of walk-in traffic, but we're mainly selling to people who have never touched it," Jason Mitchell said.

Rocky Top bills itself as "the nation's largest manufacturer of white cedar log furniture and log railing." Most of the cedar comes from Michigan, Wisconsin and Maine, but the company also makes walnut and ash furniture.

"A lot of people buy it unfinished so they can match their own décor, or we can finish it for them," said Tommy Mitchell, a Lexington native who went to Tates Creek High School.

A new line of furniture, also called LogHeads, is made from wood reclaimed from old buildings. The company has sold a bedroom suite that was made from a northern Garrard County barn. Another suite will be made from an old distillery, Tommy Mitchell said.

Rocky Top has designed furniture for Dollywood, Disneyland, Six Flags, restaurants, resorts, hotels and even for the Army and Coast Guard. But the home market is the company's bread and butter.

"It was a tough winter, but we came through," Tommy Mitchell said. "We're swamped right now. ... I'm doing all I can to keep up with the orders we're getting in."

The Mitchells also have donated time and products to various causes in Garrard and surrounding counties. For example, they made beds, dressers and other furniture for Camp Horsin' Around, a 191-acre site in Boyle and Mercer counties that serves as a year-round playground for children with chronic illnesses.

It was that work that got Ridgway, the marketing director, thinking about a show.

"We're chronicling what they already do," Ridgway said. "It's not like Tommy all of a sudden decided to go out and start helping people. He's been doing that. I'm sitting here going, 'That's a show.'"

Jason Mitchell knew Epperson and pitched the show idea to him.

"My immediate thoughts were, 'OK, everybody's got a reality show, right?' And there are these guys with a furniture company that want to do a reality show? I just wasn't real sure how to take it," Epperson said.

"When I went into it, I was very upfront with the guys and said, 'I'm not going to promise anything except we'll have a fun time' ... and we'll see what happens with it," Epperson said.

He spent a few weeks shooting footage at the Bryantsville plant earlier this year.

"One thing led to another, and we had all these production companies vying for the project," Epperson said. "It's been crazy. It's really been unprecedented because things don't really work that quickly in L.A."

Meanwhile, the Mitchells met producer Nick Loren through his wife, Denise Loren, who worked with Tommy Mitchell on The Antonio Treatment. Nick Loren, a longtime stunt double for John Travolta, is talking with a production company that would sell the show to a network.

"What we're probably going to go for is a History Channel, Discovery Channel-type market," Loren said. "We're looking to have the show picked up this summer. There definitely is interest from (people) at the top of their game."

Company sales spiked after previous television appearances. So if LogHeads is picked up by a network, the Mitchells see that as the next step to grow a company that started in a garage.

"It's another challenge for us," Gwen Mitchell said. "And we want to go out and help people. We want to help make some dreams comes true."

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