Business

Spring Run Design adds T-shirts to brand

He saw fallen trees, and began a vocation

Kory Helgens (left), founder, and D.J. Freesmeier, photographer/lead designer, at the Spring Run Design Co. workshop in Marion on Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Kory Helgens (left), founder, and D.J. Freesmeier, photographer/lead designer, at the Spring Run Design Co. workshop in Marion on Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
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MARION — Kory Helgens knows a thing or two about how the weather can change your life.

Back in 2014, a storm knocked down 63 trees on his family’s rural property near Anamosa. Helgens, then working in the corporate world, took one look at all the fallen trees and decided he’d teach himself woodworking.

“I’d go to work and then come home and, after the kids were in bed, I’d do woodworking from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., for a full year,” Helgens said.

He started amassing enough pieces — mostly tables — that he began selling them at farmers markets. He soon was seeing enough success that he decided to leave his job and create Spring Run Design Co.

“It has been an unbelievable and crazy three years,” he said of starting the business. “I love woodworking and designing stuff. Seeing people react to something that didn’t exist until you made it is very cool. I have to pinch myself.”

While Helgens started with and still makes tables, he now offers smaller pieces, such as spoons, coasters and cutting boards.

“I am carving very unique things,” he said. “I am a non-traditional woodworker. I hand-carve everything and spend hours and hours on each piece. I don’t mass-produce anything.”

Helgens also believes stories are important and shares where each piece of wood came from with the customers who buy them. He has traveled to source wood for his projects.

It was spending more time outside that also inspired a line of T-shirts Helgens designed.

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“All my shirts say, ‘Born from a storm’ at the bottom, which has a double meaning,” he said.

While visiting Colorado last year with his family, Helgens was struck by lightning while up in the mountains. He doesn’t take for granted that he survived.

“That experience made me think, you only live once and this has been a crazy, insane journey,” Helgens said. “I waited my time to get here and now I’m not holding back.”

Customer also can find products on Spring Run’s website, as well as at Soko in Cedar Rapids, Scout in Marion and Makers Loft in Iowa City. Keeping those retail locations stocked keeps him busy, Helgens said.

“Every day, I take the kids to school, answer email, do social media posts and carve until about 3 p.m. before going to get the kids from school. Then I do the dad thing until about 8 p.m. and after that I design and do research,” he said.

“My best ideas usually come to me late at night. I’m always thinking of the next step. I am doing every piece of this business. I’d love to say that someday I could hire people but we will just see what happens.”

Helgens does have the help of business partner and friend D.J. Freesmeier, who takes all the photos to help build the brand of the business and serves as the lead designer and builder on tables.

“I’ve had people tell me what I am doing is too cool for the Midwest, but I like providing something different here,” he said.

“I just want to do cool things and I think, why can’t we have this here?”

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At a glance

• Founder and owner: Kory Helgens

• Business: Spring Run Design Co.

• Phone: (319) 480-4030

• Website: https://springrundesign.com

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