Isaac Garcia found his lifelong passion at age 13 in a barbecue restaurant.

No, he’s not a pitmaster or a food blogger. He’s a furniture maker with a focus on creating beautiful tables from raw wood.

It all started when Garcia’s father opened an apparently very successful restaurant.

“The place was always packed, so he needed more tables to sit more people,” Garcia said.

Garcia’s father, Silvestre, decided to use what he had — a large cypress tree that was on the restaurant property — to make a table.

“The next day a customer who was eating at the table wanted to buy it,” Garcia said, “and that was the beginning of this story.”

Silvestre Garcia started making more artistic sculptures and furniture pieces for the restaurant — despite lacking much knowledge of woodwork– by trial and error until one day he decided to devote 100 percent of his focus to furniture making.

“As his little helper and witness of all, it inspired me so much,” Isaac Garcia said.

Fast forward 20 years and Isaac now owns and runs Once A Tree, 1525 N. Post Oak Rd., in the Spring Branch Management District. He uses wood slabs to make sculptures, dining tables, coffee tables, bars, headboards, conference tables and more.

“Any kind of idea is a possibility. It is all about letting creativity take control,” he said. “I’m very proud of being able to create truly one-of-a-kind pieces that make my customers happy.”

Garcia points out that his is “not a regular furniture store.” The furniture is “live edge,” referring to the natural edge left on at least one side of a piece of wood rather than the sharp, clean lines in more traditional wooden furniture.

“This is a place where you can share with me your creative ideas and I can make them come true — size, shape, color, and epoxy if needed. Everything is totally custom,” he said.

The best sellers at Once a Tree are the dining tables.

“We choose the perfect wood slab together,” Garcia said.

At the Once a Tree warehouse — which is also Garcia’s workshop — tables and other wood furniture in various stages of completion are lined up, each unique in size, shape and wood.

Customers are invited to come in and look around for inspiration or come in with their own ideas, allowing Garcia to bring the project to fruition. Prices vary greatly depending on size of the project and the amount of refinishing work needed.

A nearly completed coffee table, made with wood of the guanacaste tree from Central America, is getting newly painted legs to match a client’s style. Garcia is adding black epoxy on the natural cracks of the table to make it look elegant and sleek.

Originally from Monterrey, Mexico, Garcia said he chose Spring Branch for his furniture operation because he loved the building and saw a lot of potential for exposure with the location. In fact, people visiting the popular Magnol French Baking across the street often spot the business with wood slabs stacked against the building and make their way over.

Every day, Garcia said, he gives thanks for his father, who demonstrated to him that with hard work and persistence, the sky is the limit.

“I found my passion and now I share it with each and every one of my customers by creating one of a kind artistic pieces,” he said.

“I’m very thankful because being able to use my creativity with nature, making it by hand, envisioning the final product when I’m looking at raw wood, and making customers happy with their specific project, brings so much satisfaction to my spirit.”

Once a Tree
1525 N Post Oak Rd Houston, TX 77055

— By Dorothy Puch Lillig