STAR — More than 20 years ago, brothers Larry and Jerry Glass were both working in construction and building homes in and around the small town of Star, where their family stretches back four generations.

But, today, the Glass brothers have shifted their focus from building homes for people to crafting homes for birds.

The venture started when Jerry Glass became interested in a smaller-scale, more artistic kind of building — hand-making crafts to sell at local fairs on the side. At the urging of his mother, who reminded him how popular bird houses are, Jerry Glass shifted his focus.

Before long, his operation reached a scale that required help from his brother, Larry.

“As I sat under a 10-by-10 tent at local, small town Mississippi craft shows and festivals years ago, it never occurred to me that one day we would ship our products all over the USA,” Larry Glass said.

The business really took off after Larry and Jerry Glass made a trip to the International Gift and Home Furnishing Market in Atlanta, a gathering for thousands of craft-makers and shoppers each year. From their small booth at the market, dozens of orders were placed, and Heartwood’s products reached people the Glass brothers never envisioned.

Today, the weekend hobby has turned into a full-time business and way of life for the Glass brothers, as well as some of their other family members. Heartwood, which specializes in birds, bees and boards, consists of a storefront and a workshop in the hub of Star —it can be found by turning at the town’s one stoplight.

“For me, it is very much small-town, friendly; we’re very customer-service driven,” said Janine Mangum, a cousin of Larry and Jerry Glass who manages the office at Heartwood. “It’s a fun place to work, a fun business. I laugh and say that people generally aren’t cranky when they buy birdhouses.”

Over the years, Heartwood has added other woodworking to their repertoire, now featuring beekeeping materials, Adirondak chairs, swings, as well as cypress lumber. And though their variety of products is different, the goal of happy consumers has stayed the same.

“One thing I really appreciate is the relationships that are built with customers,” Mangum said.

“The care we work to give them, meeting their needs, whether it’s birdhouse, lumber for their building project, or beekeeping. We really strive to shake your hand and look you in the eye. That’s how we do business.”

Though Larry Glass is now the sole owner of Heartwood, Jerry Glass is still involved through designing custom birdhouses for customers. He, along with about 12 others, strive to create sturdy, yet beautiful and unique products in the workshop just behind the storefront.

“People are so supportive of USA-made products, and they appreciate the fact that they’re handmade and hand-painted,” Mangum said. “They can look into the back warehouse and see the employees sawing and nailing lumber, hand painting the products.There’s an appreciation for that art, and people are willing to pay a little bit more for that.”

“I feel extremely blessed and am thankful to have been given an opportunity in life to grow a hobby and an idea into a successful business,” Larry Glass said. “ I could not have done it without people — those who encouraged us along the way, those who work with us and those who have supported our business throughout the years.”

For information on Heartwood, visit their website.

Mary Margaret Halford

Mary Margaret Halford is a Vicksburg native and graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi. While at Southern Miss, she served two terms as the executive editor of The Student Printz campus newspaper, where she won awards for breaking news coverage, feature writing and general excellence. She spent three years as a news intern at The Vicksburg Post before working at The Sun Herald in Biloxi as an education and weather reporter. Mary Margaret now lives in Vicksburg, where she is an editor at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Engineer Research and Development Center.