“It all began with a simple exchange on television…
“I immediately thought of this custom furniture maker I know who does amazing stuff. He makes all this cool furniture,” Steve Ford said, gesturing to Tanner Roach.
“Yeah, Steve’s been raving about you!” chimed in renowned interior designer and HGTV personality Leanne Ford.
Most people build successful businesses little by little, one sale at a time. Sometimes, though, your world changes in an instant. You get that big break, the thing that takes what you were doing from small and steady to “pinch me, is this really happening?” For Tanner Roach and his wood furniture business Beck & Cap, that turning point was 17 minutes and 20 seconds into season 1, episode 4 of Home Again with the Fords, one of HGTV’s popular home makeover shows.
“They didn’t say our business name on the show, but online we could see that people were asking where the furniture was from,” Tanner remembers. “The next day, Leanne [Ford] posted about it on social media, then the orders started. We were so swamped, we were six months out within a day.”
That bit about “Steve’s friend Tanner” was a little bit of creative license, making it seem like Tanner was a Pittsburgh local instead of someone who had sent a truckload of furniture across the country, hoping one or two pieces might make a background shot on the show.
Home Again with the Fords actually found Beck & Cap through Tanner’s wife Jana, who co-owns both The Market Beautiful, the popular traveling vintage market that sets up twice a year in the Flathead Valley, and Honey Home & Design, a store with a similar vintage-chic ethos on Kalispell’s Main Street (Incidentally, Tanner made the store’s huge marquee sign by hand, from over 2,000 wooden blocks). A couch featured on Honey’s Instagram feed caught the showrunner’s eye, and Jana took the bold step of saying, “You know, my husband also carves this wood furniture, I don’t know if you’d be interested in it. . .”
As the saying goes, you’ll never know if you don’t try. And the result was more than they ever imagined.
“We were thrilled to discover Tanner’s work! Honestly, Beck & Cap became the main inspiration for the Reuter project.” Leanne Ford wrote via email, referencing the episode of Home Again that Tanner appeared on. “I have used their work in multiple projects and will continue to. Their pieces add a modern warmth that works in every style home.”
Like most supposed overnight success stories, Tanner’s big break was many years and unforeseen twists in the making. As was the case for so many people living here when the Great Recession hit, Tanner was working in the construction industry, and then he wasn’t. The Roaches followed work out of the valley to the oil and gas fields of Wyoming and Colorado but never gave up on their entrepreneurial dreams or their plans to return to the Flathead Valley. Jana and her business partner Vanessa Pleasants had started The Market Beautiful (then called the Vintage Whites Market), which helped maintain their connection to Montana. In 2016, they were putting together a Narnia-inspired display at the entrance to their Salt Lake City market and needed another whimsical element. Jana asked Tanner, who had always loved working with wood, if he thought could make a couple of large wooden mushrooms.
“I had never carved anything with a chainsaw before that,” he says, chuckling at the thought.
He’s now made so many mushrooms that he’s lost count but is sure they number in the thousands every possible size of fungus. Tabletop, bar stool height, and the original stool-sized varieties, all chainsaw-carved.
People came up to Jana all throughout the market, asking if the mushrooms were for sale. When she posted a picture of the display on social media, the response was the same: “Where can I buy those mushrooms?” So the mushrooms became a business. The Roaches would take orders for a particular location, then load 65 to 70 of them in a trailer and hand-deliver them across a metropolitan area like Salt Lake City or Los Angeles.
I watched him transform a two-foot chunk of birch from log to mushroom one cold January day in his Kalispell workshop. Using a small electric chainsaw, he whittled around the top to form the cap, flipped it over to shape the stalk, then grabbed a grinder to add the charming touch of gills underneath the cap. From there, the piece was sanded to a glass-smooth finish, sealed, stamped “BECK & CAP” with an electric branding iron, and packed in its own shavings for shipment.
After a while, Tanner wanted to try something other than a mushroom, and went from one hit piece to another with his tulip chair, which Tanner describes as an organic take on the original midcentury modern design. Looking the classic up online, it’s easy to see the similarities in form — an armless design with a smoothly curving back — but the original tulip chair could have come straight off an episode of the Jetsons, a molded white plastic form grounded on one leg, looking exactly like the bottom half of a wineglass. Tanner’s take, by contrast, would fit in anywhere from the latest light and airy HGTV renovation to a dinner table in Middle Earth. It’s beautiful in its simplicity, with just a touch of an imaginative, otherworldly vibe.
“One of the things we say,” he said, “is that we’re trying to be a blend of furniture and art. It’s a piece that’s unique — that you look at like art — but it’s something you want to sit in. It’s really important to us that they’re comfortable.”
All his pieces, from the mushrooms to the chairs and coffee tables, truly are functional art — incredibly beautiful, meticulously crafted, and reassuringly durable. “We have the tulip chairs at our table right now,” Tanner says, “and it’s great because the kids can’t destroy them.”
The pieces are certainly a different take on the idea of Montana-made wood furniture. “I love that people are into that kind of thing too, but that’s definitely not what we do,” he says.
Instead of the traditional rustic aesthetic, Tanner cites Scandinavian design — minimalistic, with soft hues, clean lines and warm textures — as well as the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi — seeing beauty in the imperfection of nature — as sources of inspiration that result in his unique organic modern style.
“People sometimes ask, ‘Why don’t you just do these [the mushrooms] on the lathe? And I could — I have a lathe — but we like the idea that each one is a little different. They’re not perfect.”
The pieces may not be perfect in the cookie-cutter sense, but they’re exactly what interior designers and decor-minded individuals are looking for. Through advertising solely on Instagram, Beck & Cap has actually maintained a higher volume of business than the bump it got from Tanner’s TV appearance, enough work to keep two full-time shop employees busy and look to adding to the team.
Instagram is a path to an unlimited number of eyeballs and Jana masterfully manages the company’s marketing and digital presence, but the Roaches also want Beck & Cap to have a physical presence in the Flathead Valley. Now that they’ve recovered from the overnight onslaught brought on by Home Again and found a comfortable rhythm, they’re exploring showroom options in Kalispell. The hardest part seems to be making enough pieces to set some aside for local sale, as the online orders just keep rolling in.
I ask Tanner what he would have thought, back when he was working in Wyoming in neither the industry nor the state where he had envisioned himself, if someone had walked up and said, “Don’t worry, this is just a bump in the road. You’ll make it back to Kalispell, and one day you’ll be on HGTV showing off your own line of furniture.”
He laughs at the seeming impossibility of that future.
“At the time, I never could have pictured any of this. As recently as a year ago, even, I wouldn’t even have imagined it. I still walk around the shop and I’m blown away that we’re able to work on the stuff that we do,” he says. “When I was in oil and gas, I was daydreaming in my head all the time about what it would be like to have a woodshop. It blows my mind that it actually happened.”