By Elizabeth Liberatore
Photo by Claudia Johnstone
Like most kids, Arizona native Thomas Porter grew up building with Legos. He also grew up working beside his grandfather in his garage woodshop.
“I always admired how [my grandfather] could build whatever he felt,” Porter says.
Porter’s passion for woodworking followed him to adulthood. By day, he was a massage therapist; a career that spanned 12 years. At night, he worked on commissioned pieces out of his garage woodshop.
Eventually, with the support of his family and friend Craig Suiter, he established Porter Barn Wood in 2010.
Porter Barn Wood enables designers, architects, builders, home and business owners and DIYers to construct something special out of meaningful materials. Porter travels across the US, frequenting the East Coast and the South, to source wood for his inventory.
“I love to see the wood in its roughest condition, transformed into functional art,” he says.
Wood isn’t the only hot ticket on order. Porter’s business carries an immense selection of live edge slabs, which make for stunning tables, countertops and benches. His team of skilled professionals deserves just as much bragging rights, if not more, as his inventory.
“I didn’t think I would have as many employees as I do, build such fun projects or have the opportunity to bring so many of my creative outlets into one place,” Porter says. “I don’t know what the future holds, but it certainly will not be dull.”
Home life is never dull either. The husband and father of two is always encouraging his kids to follow their dreams while also enlisting their help in his shop from time to time.
“I love seeing their faces light up when they get to build something ridiculous,” he smiles. “The entrepreneurial bug has bitten them, too.”
Music is another creative outlet for this woodworker. He is a songwriter and musician in a couple bluegrass bands (search Thomas Porter on iTunes to find them). Porter is also a classic car lover and self-proclaimed foodie.
By Mandy Holmes
Photo by Mark Morgan
As lead guitarist for local indie rock band El West, Thomas Brenneman splits his time between managing Phoenix hot spots Angels Trumpet Ale House and Tall Glass Lounge and entertaining crowds on stage.
Brenneman has played a role in various bands for 15 years, but after a five-year hiatus from playing, it was his day job that helped guide him back to his passion in the industry.
“It wasn’t until I started working for my current bosses that I got back into music. They actually pushed me because they knew how much it meant to me. I can’t thank them enough for that. That’s when I joined El West and the rest is history,” he says.
El West was already a band when Brenneman joined, but they had not been very active in the Phoenix music scene. With the addition of a bass player and drummer, the band has accomplished quite a bit in a short amount of time, including the release of a new single and music video. The band also performed at The March Madness Music Festival, where they opened for Leon Bridges, Grouplove, and The Chainsmokers. Brenneman is also at the helm of their annual charity concert benefiting Grey Matter Bicycles and Barrow Neurological Institute.
While the band is ever-evolving musically, it’s Brenneman’s understanding of the business side of the industry that gives El West the upper hand.
“We’re constantly having to change our ways as the music industry changes, which is all the time, and having to find new creative ways for promotion,” he says.
Luckily for his bandmates, Brenneman studied audio production and music business in college and worked on that side of the business after graduating.
As he continues to write and play music as a creative and emotional outlet, the driven frontman recently started spending more time in the studio to focus on his solo project of ambient instrumental songs titled Still Motions. Follow both of his journeys on Instagram at @stillmotions and @elwestmusic.