They spend most of their days in the woods digging up stumps and roots. The stumps will become stands and the roots will become decorations for the most intricate of their rustic, handmade birdhouses. Then on the weekend, Alvin Eldridge and his son will load up about 200 birdhouses of all sizes on an old wood-sided truck and plant themselves in Concord.
Alvin Eldridge and his son, Adam, are the birdhouse-building duo from Maynardville, making between 100 and 300 birdhouses a week.
A few months ago they were heading home with a truckload of birdhouses when they ended up here by accident, Alvin said motioning toward the vacant gas station at the corner of Concord Road and Lake Ridge Drive (where a food trucks appears during the week).
“Well, I pulled over here because my truck was overheated and we were waiting on a truck part to get here, so I decided I would sell a couple of houses as we set here,” Alvin said. The community response was so great that we decided to come back and it just got even better, so we decided to come down every weekend for a while.”
“It’s a month-to-month lease, but we hope to be here every weekend for a year,” Adam said. He estimates they sell about 125 small birdhouses and several larger ones each week. Over the weekend, they sell about 55. The small birdhouses go for $10; the houses on a stand start at $25 and go up from there. The multi-house creations, often complete with big tree roots and hanging ladder steps, start at $250 and can go up to as much as $1,200.
“I’ve sold a lot of pieces for $1,200,” Alvin said.
Alvin said he didn’t set out to be a birdhouse-builder, but the pay is good. He started building them 10 years ago, as a way to earn enough money to buy mahogany wood to make high-end pool tables with.
“I was selling so many birdhouses, I never got around to making pool tables,” he said. But when he finally does, he says they’ll be really nice — to the tune of $25,000.
Adam, 27, said he starting building birdhouses when he was 19. Now the business supports his family of six, including a 5-year-old, a 2-and-a-half-year-old, and a set of twins who are 16 months.
“I’ve got another son who builds birdhouses too and his name is Alvin also,” Alvin said, “but he has his own business.” He said his son has an online presence — something he hopes to have soon. “I barely have time get here and sell,” he said.
But in his spare time, he’s been working on his dream. He’s bought a warehouse in Maynardville with a stage, and has lighting and sound ready. He plans to open it up to musicians or other groups who need to get stage experience. While groups perform, Alvin and Adam will be there too — making birdhouses on each side of the stage. Alvin plans to call it “The David Stone Show,” named after his late best friend. It will be recorded live, like a 24/7 reality show. “Hopefully it will be going in five months. I hope everything comes together.”
To buy a birdhouse, stop by the corner of Lake Ridge Drive on Saturday or Sunday or call Alvin and Adam at 865-266-6459.