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Q&A with Corey Obenauer

Updated: May 5, 2023

Inspired By God, Community and Woodworking

By Jillian Chandler | Photo by Adair Media Group

Born in Billings, Montana, Corey Obenauer was second from the youngest of six children, though he would become the youngest with the passing of his younger sister due to medical complications. When just 5 years old, his parents separated, and at age 12, Corey and his three older brothers moved to Butte to live with their father. Corey would visit Sandpoint often, as his parents were related to the Hulquists of Jewel Lake outside Sagle. Corey graduated from Butte High School in 1978 and was always involved, in some manner, with civic community organizations—from a chief hunter safety instructor to an observer to the pilot for Search and Rescue—as a method of giving back. He joined the Air Force in late 1978 in the SP program at Lackland Air Force Base. He was honorably discharged.

In 2013, Corey moved to Sandpoint to help his parents with their struggles, as they were both battling cancer. The following year, both would pass away. After their passing, Corey, who previously had an art gallery in Montana for 17 years, began building live edge furniture and started a store in continuation of his passion of woodworking—which began back in 1992.

Q. When did you open Burl Wood Dreams? And what was the inspiration behind this business?

A. I opened Burl Wood Dreams in July of 2016. My wife Kimberly inspired me after my parents’ passing to return to doing woodworking and building live edge furniture, which I have had a long-term passion for. We are in our seventh year of business, and what a blessing to have my beautiful wife working hand in hand to create beautiful one-of-a-kind artistic pieces made from all different types of wood and sharing daily our God-given talents with each other and our wonderful customers.

Q. What do you take most pride in when it comes to the one-of-a-kind pieces you create?

A. I think what I take the most pride in is that from the beginning I’ve never been a copier. I don’t take others’ ideas or copy their work. God gives me the inspiration and the beautiful wood to work with, and magically the pieces come together. And piece after piece, my excitement builds as He reveals to me the next beautiful piece unfolding in front of me.

Q. You are a member of the Downtown Sandpoint Shopping District. Can you share more about this wonderful organization?

A. I am a proud member of the Downtown Sandpoint Shopping District. At the heart of this program are some extremely passionate, devoted, dedicated business owners and civic volunteers, etc., mostly made up of some of the most amazing, giving, caring individuals—mostly women I might add—who brainstorm, investigate, create and orchestrate ongoing events of all kinds to promote Sandpoint as a whole, its wonderful residents, its beautiful surroundings, its one-of-a-kind way of life, its heartfelt community atmosphere. In countless ways the Downtown Sandpoint Shopping District is a loud voice promoting and supporting our beautiful hometown and expressing to all those who visit that we are, indeed, a very family life-oriented and caring community, and this slice of heaven is understandably the place we love to call home.

Q. The beloved annual Lost in the ‘50s event is happening this month. What does this event mean to you?

A. Lost in the ‘50s. Wow. To me this is the most impressive and exciting event that not only draws huge amounts of outside attraction to Sandpoint but also literally opens the gates of summertime enthusiasm in the downtown Sandpoint corridor for all businesses. And at the heart of this event, Carolyn Gleason of Second Avenue Pizza. For the last 35 years, this well-respected and amazing lady, with every ounce of love and energy she can give, organizes, arranges, promotes and facilitates this grand event and assumes the overwhelming responsibility for the same. Hats off to you, Carolyn. We all love you. And our businesses, as well as so many others, will continue to support and help promote this legendary event yourself and countless others are so passionate about.

Q. Are you involved in other community organizations/events? Why are these important to you?

A. I try to get involved with community organizations as much as possible, whether it be a donation to schools for track, ballet, football, socker, dance, etc., as well as contributing to a plethora of fundraisers, silent or live auctions for individuals in need or community functions. Mostly we love to support and encourage support for our veterans. Our heartfelt gratitude for their service, sacrifice and dedication could never be expressed enough. And a few even work for us and with us.

Q. Why would you encourage individuals and businesses in the community to do their part in giving back to the community they call home?

A. The very word community and all its meaning: a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals. Two of our greatest strengths are diversity and community. I believe that each and every soul on this earth has a God-given talent or ability, that when all those in our community invest those skills, each in his or her own way, that those contributions will build, support and strengthen our beautiful Sandpoint community beyond measure.

Q. During the warmer months, locals and visitors alike may find you sweeping the sidewalks around the downtown area first thing in the morning. Why did you decide to take the initiative to help keep our streets clean?

A. I think in so many ways, a first impression is a lasting impression, and so as soon as I opened Burl Wood Dreams in late 2016, I started making certain that all the area around my store was neat and clean in appearance. And I enjoyed the exercise, the air in my lungs in the morning and the result, so refreshing, so it grew to another block and then another. Pretty soon, I was ironically doing about 14 blocks; the more I did, the more I wanted to, and it felt good to give back to the community, to leave it better than I found it, I guess. And being persistent, it stayed clean, and people appreciated that. It made just a little difference in how people appreciate coming here.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

A. Sandpoint, Idaho, one of the last best places. I love that I can say that with a straight face and truly mean it. I love living and working here. It’s a step back in time, where friendships are made, honesty and integrity, kindness and helpful attitudes still mean a lot. We’re a small community but big in heart.

We do make a difference to those around us and most all who visit. I hear positive feedback all the time. Just to make a positive difference, no matter how small, is so important.

My dad raised me to understand qualities of honesty, integrity, accountability and dependability. You know, all those “ility” words. “Stand your ground,” he said, “for what you believe is right, and wear no bricks on your shoulders. And son, take care of your family, and don’t forget to give back.”

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