From trash to treasures

When Bill Lathrop looked at an old, beat up phonograph, he saw a bench -- or at least the potential for a bench. The Hayden entrepreneur is retired, but two decades as a carpenter translate easily into his hobby of turning junk into fine furniture.

"I would go to auctions and see these things all busted up and think, 'What can I do with this? How can I fix this up?"' Lathrop said.

The phonograph-turned-bench now sits at the Villard Bertique among many other of Lathrop's creations, including an old door-turned-chair, an old bed frame-turned-bench and a two-story dollhouse complete with miniature furniture.

The Colorado native and his wife live in Hayden where he regularly hosts yard sales. All the goods for sale in Lathrop's yard are homemade, or remade as the case may be.

It was at one of those yard sales that Tammy Villard first saw Lathrop's handiwork and asked him to bring some by the shop to sell. Eventually, he brought two truckloads of merchandise, Villard said.

"He does beautiful work. You can tell he puts his heart into it; he gets so excited," Villard said.

Lathrop works with new materials as well as old. One of his specialties is cedar dollhouses.

The dollhouse at Villard's shop sits atop a cabinet where toys and other supplies for playing house can be stored. Framed windows and a porch wrap around three sides of the house, while large openings in the rear allow easy access for young arms. The dollhouse is especially popular with Villard's 2-year-old daughter.

"When she's down here at the store with me, I can't keep her away from it. She loves it. She absolutely loves it," Villard said.

Lathrop works without the aid of written plans or drawings, he said. Producing dollhouses and benches is practically effortless after his years of carpentry experience.

Evidence of his skilled labor can be found at the two power plants, Sunset School and a gymnasium in Hayden, he said.

Lathrop says his hobby is just a way to pass time, but Sandra Tucker, a real estate broker from Granby holds a deep appreciation for Lathrop's craft. She had been searching for a dollhouse for her niece in California when one day she passed through Hayden. She stopped at one of the Lathrops' sales and fell in love with the dollhouse there, she said.

"It amazes me every time I look at it that it's not a kit," she said describing the picket fence, yard and miniature furniture.

"It's a treasure," Tucker said. Unfortunately her niece hasn't been able to play with it. FedEx refused to ship it because it is too fragile, Tucker said. She couldn't find anyone who would ship it.

"I wish they'd stop advertising that they ship dollhouses because they don't," Tucker said.

For a while, children of clients coming to her main office played with the dollhouse.

Tucker said it's hard to tell whether it helped increase sales, but she said it definitely increased the beauty of her office. She eventually removed it, because she said the cabin is just too beautiful to risk damage.

But turning damaged goods into treasures is what Lathrop is all about.

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