You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Sat, Feb 11, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

Urban Ashes hopes to expand distribution from Michigan to U.S. this year

By Paula Gardner

Ann Arbor's Paul M. Hickman is growing his vision for using Michigan's dead ash trees in all-natural home furnishing and decor. By the end of this year, he's hoping to sell his Urban Ashes products outside of Michigan, he told for a recent report.


Janet Miller | For

Since 2009, Hickman has been using felled trees to make furniture and picture frames.

Now, he's using employees from the Work Skills Corp. to make his products in Brighton, he told This year, he aims to expand distribution to at least 100 retailers, branching outside of Michigan.

That was part of his vision for the company when he talked to in 2010. From that article:

It’s not only about urban trees. Urban Ashes is an early-stage venture that seeks to repurpose features of Michigan’s urban blight, Hickman said. Within a year, he wants to tap into displaced, transitional labor, such as from the state’s prison system, and house a commercial operation in a vacant warehouse.

“Urban Ashes transforms these unclaimed resources to produce what could be considered a commodity of interior design, the basic wooden picture frame. A for-profit startup with a decidedly economic development bent, Urban Ashes seeks to do good by doing well,” he said. “Especially for the frames, there is a high potential in the commercial world.”

See the report, including video.


paul hickman

Wed, Aug 7, 2013 : 4:36 p.m.

Update 18 months later, Urban Ashes now has over 100 retail partners in 25 states. With the introduction of our new collection Detroit De-Nailed we have been making serious waves. The latest is a partnership with Brooklyn, NY based Holstee to design, prototype and manufacture their latest hot product, the Reframe. Their Kickstarter campaign blew past there goal in less than 36 hours and is slated for a huge "Stretch Goal" in the next day or so. If you care to check out the some of the progress since we jumped out of Washtenaw County 18 months ago go to...

Ann English

Sun, Dec 9, 2012 : 12:44 a.m.

Using the wood of dead ash trees to make furniture and picture frames? I wonder if anyone approached him with the idea of making baseball bats from the wood. Years ago, when the emerald ash borer was reported to be active in the area, killing most if not all of the ash trees, Brandon Inge went on the local radio with an ad telling us that the Tigers' baseball bats were made of ash tree wood. It would be interesting to know what Major League Baseball has done since the emerald ash borer stories were frequently published. Find an adequate substitute wood? Hickman probably uses sugar maple tree wood among others for furniture; a science book on trees I read years ago said that sugar maple tree wood is excellent for furniture.


Mon, Feb 13, 2012 : 11:11 p.m.

This is more a free promo for a dreamer, than a story about successful accomplishments in the arts or marketplace.Lets review, 'growing his vision';'he's hoping to sell';'he aims to expand';'part of his vision',\;'Within a year, he wants to tap into ';'produce what could be considered a commodity';'there is a high potential '. This is 2012, started in 2009, and still talking in early startup terms, really is this a story?

paul hickman

Sun, Feb 12, 2012 : 7:47 p.m.

Paula, thank you for connecting the article from 2009 to the feature on Fox 2 this past week. In 2009, this thing was very young. It took me more than the year that I had hoped to get it done in. Never the less, with a lot of help, we are now there. While the Ash tree was the impetus behind the company's name, our frames are not limited to Ash alone. We use a wide variety of domestic urban wood species. @ obviouscomment, This past fall, Urban Ashes submitted this to Bank of Ann Arbor for their ad campaign, "Non-local banks think Urban Ashes is a crematorium". We have yet to see it hit the print for them.


Sun, Feb 12, 2012 : 3:10 p.m.

The name "Urban Ashes" accompanied with the picture on the News page with all the urn-type objects on the shelf made me think this was more about someone who makes urns for the ashes of loved ones. Glad I clicked to find out what it really was.

Frank D

Sat, Feb 11, 2012 : 10:33 p.m.

Great idea; what a smart guy.