by Wendy Nugent
When Pat Enos came home one day, her husband Daryl needed her to be a model and asked her to lay on the ground.
“Because then he’d chalk mark around me so he could figure out how to design the box,” Pat said, adding it looked like a crime scene.
The box to which she referred is a casket or coffin; Daryl constructs them for people through their business, River Mill Woods, at the Newton outlet mall, 601 S.E. 36th St. He also creates custom furniture, and Pat is in charge of item and picture framing.
Through making coffins and caskets, the Enos couple has learned the difference between the two. Daryl said coffins are tapered, like the old-time cowboy-days coffins or perhaps the shape Dracula uses as a bed, and caskets are squared off and rectangular.
Daryl has an extensive background in woodworking and design, as he taught woodworking and drafting on the high school level for years and coached, as well.
Pat said the idea came to her after her mom passed away in 2002, when she thought Daryl should make a casket. Her mom didn’t get one of his handmade caskets, but their other three parents were laid to rest in his creations, which are quite beautiful.
“I said, ‘Daryl, you ought to build some caskets,’” Pat said.
The wooden coffins and caskets basically are Daryl’s designs, and they sell for around $3,200.
“It takes 80 hours to build one, start to finish,” Daryl said, adding they don’t store them for people. “We try to have some on hand.”
That’s so people will have some from which to choose.
This past summer, the Enos couple, who resides one and a half miles south of Marion, drove one to Montana, and another time, they drove one to Missouri to make a connection.
Out of all the items Daryl makes, he said caskets/coffins are the best selling right now.
“The most popular right now has been the caskets, because I don’t have to redesign them every time,” he said.
Daryl said he’s made about 40 so far, and Pat said they’re rather heavy.
“Some people just like that handcrafted look,” Daryl said.
There are no governmental guidelines regarding coffins and caskets. Daryl said they just need to fit in the vault and don’t fall apart.
Although there is a duplication process with caskets, Daryl said there isn’t with custom furniture, making it have a heftier price than if he had a duplication process with it.
Because custom furniture is a one-time thing, he’s not always sure about charges, because he won’t know how long it’ll take to make something, so he can give a ballpark estimate on pricing.
His biggest project was a trophy case at Marion High School, which is housed in the aquatic center/gymnasium area. Daryl’s wood shop is at home, and he goes to the store at least once a week.
“He’s good at drawing things up and figuring things out,” Pat said. “He’s a good design man.”
Another big part of their business is picture and item/memorabilia framing. Quite a few of their customers are regulars, like a couple in Wichita who buys a lot of art and likes it framed.
There’s also a woman from Colorado, who ships her stuff to the shop, and a gal from Lewis, who sends them her cross-stitch work.
There’s a man from Lyons, who has them frame railroad memorabilia, such as postcards.
In addition, Newton artist Bob Regier gets his work custom framed there, and they’ve done historical things for Fort Larned.
“The famous piece around here is my grandma’s dress,” Pat said about a framed dress accompanied by a photo of her grandmother wearing it in 1899 when she was 3 years old.
“You frame football jerseys, ballet shoes and rattlesnake skin,” Daryl said, regarding certain items they frame.
“That’s something else,” Pat said, talking about the rattlesnake skin she framed one time for an older rancher from the Flint Hills.
“He walks in here one day,” Pat said, adding as she imitated him, “‘Got something for you to frame.’”
“What’s in here?” Pat said she asked him.
“Why don’t you open it and find out?” he asked her.
Turned out to be old, brittle rattlesnake skin. Pat said when the man was 12, he clubbed a rattlesnake to death, removed its skin and wore it around his waist as a belt for a short time.
Because it was so brittle, Pat wasn’t sure how to frame it, so she talked to taxidermists. They suggested she soak it in glycerin, which she did for a month. That did the trick, and she was able to frame it. Turns out, the snake had 11 rattles and was 4 feet long.
Pat wasn’t exactly sure how to charge the man for soaking the snake in glycerin. There was no real set price for that.
“That’s probably the hardest thing for me to do is act like a businesswoman,” she said.
Including the places already listed, like the Flint Hills, customers come from all over, including Hesston, Halstead, Galva, Goessel, McPherson, Hillsboro, Hutchinson, Goddard, Lyons, Newton and North Newton—and they get new customers every week, if not daily.
This business, that’s been in seven locations since 1993, has grown with time. Each move either was necessitated by them growing or needing to take care of their parents. Pat started framing part time 1993, when they lived in Lewis, where Daryl taught school.
“I started framing on the side to help the family income,” Pat said.
“I taught for 25 years,” Daryl added. “Fifteen were at Lewis.”
In Lewis, they had a shop at their home, and then they moved to Marion in 2000, since their parents needed them. Marion is their hometown. There, Pat framed full time, and Daryl started making custom furniture full time.
They had a storefront in Marion until 2012, when they decided to relocate their business in the Newton outlet mall, first by Vitamin World and now at its current location near what used to be called Dress Barn, which is a larger space.
“Marion was good to us, but Marion is a small community,” Pat said. “We had to get more exposure, more people.”
They said Dean Davis, who used to have a frame shop in the Copies & More building in Newton, was instrumental in them moving into the factory outlet. He thought they should move out there and had thought about doing that himself at one point.
“We had built a frame shop out at the house (near Marion) and naively thought people would drive a mile and a half to get there,” Daryl said.
They like where they are now.
“We’re here,” Pat said. “We’re not moving again for a long time. This has been a God-blessed location.”
They moved into their current large storefront in March 2015 after a busy holiday season.
“After a big Christmas season, we kinda looked at each other,” Pat said.
“We’re out of room,” Daryl said, completing her thought.
This year has been booming for them.
“It’s been the best year ever,” Daryl said, adding summer usually is a slow time in the framing business but not this year.
Families like to have historical items framed.
“We do a lot of historical things for families—a lot,” Daryl said.
Regarding framing, they do almost everything themselves in the back room, and they don’t restore things, however. They do all the work except dry mounting.
Pat said she’s glad she’s married to a woodworker, because sometimes items needing framed require extra depth or are an unusual shape.
Regarding framing pricing, Daryl said they’re at 25 percent off the standard retail pricing guidelines, although they price differently with shadow-box kinds of items.
“It’s a whole different deal,” he said.
The name of their business comes from their Marion County home, as they have woods and a nearby river. Also, if they look out their back yard, there’s an old mill sitting there.
“We’re in the process of buying this old mill from Daryl’s siblings,” Pat said.