Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

“Rich from around the world are snapping up Minnesota firewood at $40 a box” reads the headline from the Duluth News and Tribune.

While the poor are seeing funding cut for heating assistance, the rich are paying $40 a box plus $25 shipping for firewood. Just think about that for a minute. Wow.

The arrival of winter means firewood vendors from outstate Minnesota aren’t delivering stacks to just Duluth or Twin Cities homeowners. They’re also boxing up their prettiest hand-cut logs and FedExing them to Middle Eastern sheiks, Hollywood stars and Manhattan sophisticates who all are looking for a whiff of fragrant north woods fireplace smoke.

I find my self cheering for the marketing savvy of JN Firewood of Ft. Ripley, MN. They’ve been mentioned on CBS news, the Wall Street Journal and several newspapers around the state. After the WSJ article which said the wood was from where the movie Fargo was shot, apparently there were lots of phone calls for orders. The callers also wanted to hear “Youbetcha” spoken by a native.

And here’s a trade. We buy oil from the Middle East and they buy firewood from us. “The company also said they do send wood to Saudi Arabia. J.N. Firewood shipped rail containers filled with birch, oak, hickory and apple firewood to the deserts of the Middle East.”

Another Minnesota company, Paul’s Fireplace Wood in Little Falls is owned by Sharon Wilczek. In the CBS story she is quoted:

Her company sells boxes of six to eight decorative birch logs, costing from $53 to $83 per box, depending on the thickness of the log. Wilczek said her company’s wood has been recommended by Town & Country magazine and her logs have appeared in a Better Homes and Gardens photo shoot. Customers have ranged from the Playboy Mansion to a movie star in Beverly Hills.

If you have any rich friends you now have a good gift idea for them for the holidays. Also, if you have a chain saw and a splitter maybe there is room in the market for you to make a buck. I am happy for these small businesses that have found a way to succeed in this economy. I am also shaking my head at the idea of paying $75 for three or four fires. The wood all carries “certification” that it is free of insects, just FYI.

Back to the F. Scott Fitzgerald and “the rich are different from you and me.”

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