Cherry tops the sales charts once again

The market for domestic cherry hit a speed bump in early 2011, but it's been speeding along since then. Hardwood dealers interviewed by Woodshop News say cherry has shown great staying power as the wood of choice.

Simply put, cherry has a lot going for it: color, appearance and good working characteristics. In survey after survey (see Page 12), consumers rate cherry as their favorite wood. Carl Mahlstedt, owner of Goosebay Sawmill and Lumner, a retailer and wholesaler in Chichester, N.H., says cherry remains his top seller and he’s come to rely on its consistency constant year after year.

“Cherry has always been an easy seller. If it wasn’t for cherry, I don’t know what else would command the market that way cherry does. It’s really something you can just always depend upon,” says Mahlstedt.

“Our best seller is 4/4, but other dimensions are good to have. Cherry works well for just about everything, especially people who been use it for building cabinets and furniture.”

Cherry (Prunus serotina) is also known as black cherry, grows from Canada south to central Florida and portions of Mexico and Guatemala. Its highest concentration is in Pennsylvania, which supplies about 70 percent of the country’s cherry, although it only represents 3 to 4 percent of the Appalachian forests.

Cherry trees reach heights between 80’ and 100’ with diameters of 2’-3’. The heartwood is pinkish-brown to reddish-brown with a distinctive golden luster. The sapwood is narrow and is a white-to-reddish-brown color.

Pete Terbovich of Horizon Wood Products in Kersey, Pa., caters to custom furniture makers and exports to European markets. “With custom wholesale exports, I’ve seen an increase in container size orders from last year; enough that it definitely lifted our spirits after the previous two years,” he says. “As far as domestic hardwoods go, it’s one of the king species. It has fantastic woodworking properties. It’s very versatile. It’s just traditionally desired. The rich tones of the color of the wood have always been in demand. It’s really nice to work with because it’s softer than oak. The tone is middle of the road; it’s not as dark as the walnuts, which have been popular in the last few years, and not white like maple, so it’s a nice medium color for interiors.”

David Harris of Parkerville Wood Products in Manchester, Conn., says his cherry sales have increased nearly 25 percent during the last year.

“It’s definitely one of our biggest sellers and we’re a manufacturer as well. It could be one of the No. 1 woods, if not the No. 1, in manufacturing and probably one of the top three in sales.

“I think it’s really the quality and the appearance. Our sales are up a little overall and I’m sure part of that’s attributable just to the economy improving. A couple of years ago, we stocked different grades: one FAS grade and a premium with less sapwood. The premium cost $.25/bf more and, over the course of a few months, we found nobody was buying the FAS grade and everyone was buying the premium grade so we stopped carrying the FAS. We also carry quartersawn, which is pretty popular for furniture building and architectural millwork.”

Retail prices for 4/4 FAS cherry, dressed and ripped at average lengths, were quoted at $6.50 to $7.13/ bf.

This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue.