Showcasing the Mountain State

June 2, 2016


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Showcasing  the Mountain State

Mark Bowe, a West Virginia native and star of DIY Network’s “Barnwood Builders,” is finding success in combining his passions: authentic salvaging, historical restoration and casting a positive light on the Mountain State.

Mark Bowe, owner of Antique Cabins & Barns.

By Samantha Cart

Mark Bowe isn’t letting fame go to his head. The West Virginia native and successful entrepreneur, who has turned his passion for business into two prosperous companies and a burgeoning television career, is using his celebrity status to champion the Mountain State.

Bowe and his crew at Antique Cabins & Barns, a Lewisburg-based company, are the stars of the popular show “Barnwood Builders” on the DIY Network. The team of six travels the country dismantling and restructuring antique barns and homes and restoring the hand-hewn log and timber frames.

Craftsmen Johnny Jett, Sherman Thompson, Tim Rose, Brian Buckner, Graham Ferguson and Bowe pride themselves on refurbishing the log and timber components of each building exactly like the pioneers did it 150 years ago, creating structures with nostalgia and character that reflect our country’s history. Antique Cabins & Barns ships its wood products all over the United States and is known for its devotion to authentic salvaging.

“Barnwood Builders,” which just entered its third season, was born out of a documentary film made about Bowe’s business in 2004. After sitting on a shelf for almost a decade, the film made its way into the hands of a few major networks, and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Reality TV was no good at the time, especially anything that was being made in West Virginia,” Bowe says. “Many networks contacted us about doing a show, but they wanted us to fight more and have more drama. We refused to do it. The DIY Network said, ‘We love you guys, and we’ll take you just the way you are.’ I guess holding off paid some dividends, because I think we did the right thing.”

IMG_4142Bowe had reservations about breaking into television because he was concerned about the way writers, producers and directors would want to portray his home state. “I think every West Virginian has a reservation about outsiders because it seems like anyone who comes from out of state is taking our coal, taking our land, taking our gas, taking our timber and taking our water,” says Bowe. “I’m still a hillbilly at heart, and I was afraid to give them my likeness, my image. But after I met the producers at the DIY Network, I found them to be kind and full of integrity.”

The cast of “Barnwood Builders” has taken down or restored more than 400 buildings. During the process, they deconstruct and try to save most, if not all, of the timber. They transport the pieces back to their facility in Greenbrier County, which they have named The Bone Yard, and replace any bad pieces with pieces from other buildings.

“Every time we do a project, we have two buildings,” says Bowe. “We have to go tear down another one just for parts. You can’t go to a store and find 200-year-old logs that have been cut by hand.”

Each building is evaluated on the crew’s 25 percent rule: if a building is more than 25 percent deteriorated, it will be used for parts only. After the wood has been restored, the men deliver and assemble, and the restoration portion of the project is complete. “Any good builder can take over from where we leave off,” says Bowe. “We do what we do because people are often intimidated by a historic building, but if the bones are good, it’s not a matter of restoring. It’s just a matter of building around those bones.”

While the guys have completed projects all across the country, including South Carolina, Montana, Colorado and West Virginia in season two alone, there are two in particular that Bowe will always remember.

In 2013, the crew created a full-scale replica of Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood cabin that sits in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, IL—a project that helped launch their careers. “It was a special project because Abraham Lincoln’s cabin is an American icon, and we were chosen to recreate it,” says Bowe. The second is a cabin exhibit completed for and featured inside the West Virginia State Museum at the Culture Center in Charleston.

BWB_201_ABINGDON_LC_REV_MIXED_AUDIO2Bowe and his crew entertain 1 million viewers each week, but the show has not affected his business the way he expected. Since “Barnwood Builders” premiered in 2013, the gross sales for Antique Cabins & Barns have only increased about 25 percent because the company’s products and services are so specialized. “We have a lot of people calling us wanting us to repair barns and fix old cabins, but we’re a product-based company, so we can’t really travel the country and repair just any houses and barns. It’s not a good business model,” says Bowe.

However, breaking into television has launched Bowe on a path he never imagined. The DIY Network recently offered him the opportunity to film a pilot for a potential spinoff show, which aired secretly in March. The show, “Made With Pride,” was listed on all television guides as a rerun of “Garage Gold” but was actually a test for the new pilot. “Not only do I host the show, I also produce the show,” says Bowe. “I will travel the country and meet masters of different crafts, like blacksmiths, showing the world that artists and craftspeople still exist.”

Adding television personality and producer to his resume of husband, father, craftsman and entrepreneur, Bowe has enjoyed local celebrity status over the past few years. “We do get recognized sometimes, mostly in West Virginia,” he says. “The awesome thing about getting recognized for me is that it’s not really a star-struck kind of response. Very few people want our autographs or anything like that. They want to talk to us, shake our hands and say, ‘Have you seen that old barn on Route 33?’ It feels more like I am connected to part of a family, and I love that.”

Bowe is thrilled that his passions have come together so he can genuinely enjoy every aspect of his working life. “I love everything about the physical nature of what we do, the blue collar aspect and the historical aspect,” he says. “In terms of the show itself, I love being playful with clients and the creative part of putting the show together.”

Above the work and recognition, though, serving as an ambassador for the Mountain State is Bowe’s favorite part of working in the television industry. “I wear the West Virginia logo on my t-shirts, and I get to expose the entire country to kind people who work hard and take pride in what they do. It gives me great pleasure that people from all over the country are saying, ‘I’ve never been to West Virginia, but because of your show I can’t wait to visit, pass through or take a look at the scenery.’”

WVE first profiled Mark Bowe and his business in 2007, before “Barnwood Builders” began filming.

WVE first profiled Mark Bowe and his business in 2007, before “Barnwood Builders” began filming.

Bowe loves that the show reaches a diverse audience, from those who don’t know West Virginia is a real state to West Virginians who have moved away. “So many people have ties to West Virginia, and as our population continues to age and leave, we’re putting our state out there,” he says. “I want to help get West Virginia off the bottom of the good lists and the top of the bad lists. That is really important to me. We have producers in NYC calling this place the Best Virginia, and they’ve done a great job of bringing attention to us as a state.”

Bowe attributes his success to the hardworking people he has surrounded himself with, including his family. While they cannot come to every shoot, his wife, Cindy, and son, Atticus, can frequently be found on the set of the show. “I don’t do anything without my family,” says Bowe. “There is so much that goes into making a TV show, and none of it is possible if we don’t have supportive families. My wife has been amazing. She helps out with all social media, managing the office, merchandise, the website—she takes care of everything. The other guys bring their families along when they can, too, and they are the people behind the scenes that really deserve a lot of credit. It is really a testament to the support we get from our spouses and kids.”

Along with his family and employees, Bowe has also surrounded himself with fair and knowledgeable co-workers who make the restoration process possible. “There is always a compromise when you’re restoring an old building between what our forefathers did 150 years ago and what modern codes require now,” says Bowe. “We have to be really careful, but I’ve surrounded myself with a really good group of architects that understand the limitations. More often than not we have people that encourage us—inspectors and others—that get the value of what we do. They rarely try to stop the process.”

While he has already enjoyed tremendous success, as an entrepreneur, Bowe is always looking forward. With the money he has earned from “Barnwood Builders,” he is launching a furniture line and expanding Antique Cabins & Barns to offer new ways of constructing and repurposing timber that it hasn’t offered in the past.

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West Virginia Executive

(13) Readers Comments

  1. Debbie Rowan
    July 10, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    I love the show, I live in Springfield ohio my parents live down by the bone yard Sam&Ann Jones they know Mark and the gang real well. Please tell me how i can order those shirts they wear I would love to get me one and several in the family. could you please get back to me as soon as possible. Thank You, Debbie Rowan

    • West Virginia Executive
      July 12, 2016 at 4:47 pm

      Debbie - Thanks for commenting! Here is a link where you can purchase West Virginia "HOME" apparel:

    • Susan Fernandez
      January 26, 2017 at 7:19 pm

      Love Barnyard Builders, Mark and his Crew are Awesome!! Love what they do.

  2. Judy Rood
    February 8, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    My husband and I love to watch the show not just for the projects but to watch to comradery of the crew you can tell they are a family.The time we get to visit that part of the country wondering if you ever let people watch ( from a safe distance) the work going on. My husband has been in construction many years and would love to see the work in person and/or give a hand if needed, truly that would be his dream. A wonderful show and crew.

  3. Kevin Sobieck
    February 20, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    Love watching the show! All the episodes are recorded and watch them multiple times. I'm from Minnesota and are planing a trip to West Virginia and would like to see the bone yard, could you let me know where it's located. Would love to see it.

  4. Doris Woodrum-LaFrance
    March 13, 2017 at 4:50 am

    I love watching the show, l love listening and learning about the history. I have watched episodes several times and have the new ones set to record. I am from TN. I enjoy watching the crews comradary. Y'all are awesome

  5. Norma Pierce
    April 27, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    I absolutely love "Barnwood Builders". Never miss the opportunity to watch or re-watch episodes. I am amazed at the ability of the crew, and even more amazed at the obvious affection and respect the guys have for each other. I feel I know them, just from watching so much...

  6. Robert Germani
    July 19, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    My wife and I just love that show we just think that how these guys get along in every way possible not to mention that the history that they are talking teaching us we hope that this show stays on television for a long time

  7. Jeri Ward
    July 28, 2017 at 10:26 pm

    How can we visit the Boneyard?

    • West Virginia Executive
      July 31, 2017 at 9:51 am

      Jeri - This page belongs to and is managed by West Virginia Executive. To contact Barnwood Builders, please visit their website or Facebook page. Thank you!

  8. Peter Siersdale
    August 2, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    What a great show !

  9. Jackie Humphrey
    August 8, 2017 at 2:58 pm

    I can be having a bad day; then watch an episode of Barnwood Builders and forget my problems. The respect that the guys have for each other, for their experience and abilities, and their obvious enjoyment of working with other, reaffirms my faith in the human race. My husband and I thoroughly enjoy the show!

  10. Delbert Farnsworth
    September 19, 2017 at 3:22 am

    Iove the show you can really tell these guys are good freinds

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