By John Allaire N ear North is a small fami- ly-owned business based in South River, Ontario, just west of Algonquin Provincial Park. Like most builders in Canada’s harsh climate, Near North is for the most part a seasonal business. Sheppard handles most winter duties, like wood preparations and planning, himself. In fact, he lives on a farm, so there is no shortage of daily tasks. However, come spring, the company hires on a couple of seasonal workers. “We are definitely looking to grow, and we are thinking that this year might be that year where we expand,” Sheppard explains. “It’s still going to be mostly seasonal, because when people start building, they want their house at some point in the spring, summer or fall. With the snow and weather we get around here, it’s just too hard to move around and do anything. So people don’t really want winter construction anyway.” “Every single person that I show homes to asks if I have seen certain episodes of Timber Kings.” For Sheppard and Near North, the building season typically runs from March, with home assemblies taking place in the warmer months, right into November in some cases. Logs are ordered in January and February so they can be prepared and ready to go once the snow has gone. Logs are sourced from suppliers in Ontario, but Near North will go further distances to fulfill customer requests. “If somebody wanted red cedar or Douglas fir, we can do that as well. There is, of course, a price tag attached to that… I do have Western suppliers that are available at any time to send specific logs our way, should we get the request.” Standard operating procedure for most log builders consists of erecting the structures in their own yard, disassem- bling, shipping, then reassembling on site.

From the time he was a teenager, Near North Log Homes’ owner Jon Sheppard wanted to build himself a log home. Admittedly, log homes are special and not for everybody. But if you live in the right environment and are someone who enjoys the unique, individual appeal of natural wood, a log or timber home may be right up your alley. Sheppard was definitely one of those people. Returning home from a job as a fly-fishing guide in Northern British Columbia, some 20 years ago, Sheppard’s route took him past a log home building company. He doubled back, pulled into the lot and asked if they were looking for an extra hand to build their homes. They took his information and sure enough, one week later he got the call-up to join the crew. Like most people breaking into the industry, Sheppard learned the ropes from on-the- job training, not from any formal certification program. His new- found job was step one in what has turned into a life-long passion. Ah, but best-laid plans… a hockey injury cut Sheppard’s career short with this particular builder, and he returned to Vancouver to rehabilitate. Once back on his feet, he managed to make ends meet with various carpentry jobs in the big city. But the log home building bug hadn’t dissipated, and he sought out a job building dovetail-style square-log houses in BC. Unfortunately, there just weren’t enough people looking for the rustic homes at the time, and Sheppard found himself pulling up stakes and moving to his wife’s home town north of Huntsville, Ontario. After a few more years of sporadic carpentry jobs, Sheppard put an advertisement into the local newspaper offering his services as a log home builder. That ad brought him his first contract, and he has been building log homes ever since. Spotlight on Business Magazine spoke with Jon Sheppard about the log home business and its place in the residential construction industry.



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