Richard and Julie Wenman want people to know that the dog houses and pet furniture they build are not made of recycled materials.
"We build everything out of rescued and recovered material," Richard Wenman said. "It's unbelievable how much good material gets thrown out in this town."
The Wenmans officially started their business, Puppy Huts, about a year ago, but they had been thinking about it for years. They build doghouses, cat climbing structures, reptile homes and other pet-related structures in a Sunrise Manor industrial space. Then they sell the structures in local farmers markets and other temporary venues. Many weeks they can be found at the Las Vegas Farmers Market from 2 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays at Bruce Trent Park, 1600 N. Rampart Blvd.
"We sell them at low prices because we can, and people with pets need them," Richard Wenman said. "They're all custom-made and start at $40. You couldn't find pieces like this at any pet store for less than double or triple our prices."
Richard Wenman boasts that when he came to town in the early '60s, he was homeless, but he pulled himself up by his bootstraps. In little time he went from homeless to being a home builder, building whole neighborhoods before moving on to high-end custom homes.
These days the Wenmans spent around 60 hours a week building and selling their Puppy Huts. Initially they planned to go to cabinet makers and other manufacturers across the valley to rescue scrap wood for their business, but when they moved into the shop near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, they found out searching for building materials was unnecessary.
"We were still setting up here when we noticed all these big pieces of wood in the Dumpsters," Julie Wenman said. "We started asking around and people were more than happy to let us take their scrap off of their hands."
Richard Wenman explained that one manufacturer near their shop uses a computer-driven system to cut wood from large sheets.
"Anything under 23 inches wide is considered scrap," he said. "So I made my designs using 22½-inch-wide pieces."
The Wenmans take rescued carpet, lumber, tile and even tree limbs that were destined for a wood chipper, and with a little bit of sweat equity they convert them into a unique and attractive product. Richard Wenman has created a wide variety of standard designs, but they also do custom work.
"We built this one for a lady who was having trouble keeping her dog out of her cat's litter box," Julie Wenman said while scrolling through hundreds of pictures of previous work on her computer. "It's got a hole where the cat can get into (it), but the dog can't. There's a door, so you can get in to clean the cat box, and we also have a place way up on the top for food, because the dog was eating the cat's food, too."
Henderson resident Joan Wollard, a proud owner of one of the couple's cat towers, said, "I'm just so pleased with their work. I bought one at a big pet store the week before I found them, and it cost three times as much and wasn't half as good."
Her cats, Fat Emma and Johnny Cat, appear to be big fans of Puppy Huts' work, too.
"They took right to it. They love it," Wollard said. "I like the fact that they're rescuing materials, too."
The Wenmans are pet lovers, and their dog Mr. Beags and cat Mr. Psycho are never far away from the Wenmans or each other. Mr. Beags is the company's face on Facebook. As much as they enjoy pets and serving the pet community, they really want to impart a bigger message.
"We want people to know that with enough hard work, you can make it," Richard Wenman said. "There's so much waste out there that can be repurposed. We get our power tools for a fraction of the cost of new tools at pawn stores. We buy nails and glue. Everything else we need, we get for very little or free and keep it out of the landfills."
Puppy Huts can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 502-8401.
Contact Sunrise and Whitney View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at email@example.com or 380-4532.