PARIS – You don’t just have a drink when you sit at the Crazy 8 Bar & Grille. You have an experience.

Patrons will now rest their elbows on a jaw-dropping 36-foot-long bar made of 17 kinds of exotic wood with names such as Zebra, Purple Heart, Tulip and Chakte-Kok, gathered from all over the world.

“You’re trying to figure it out. You can’t,” said its creator, John Donovan, of the fascination the woods and their combinations hold. “The woods are spectacular.”

The bar, which cost Crazy 8 Bar and Grille owner Scott Buffington about $9,000, was installed over the old bar. It measures 36 feet long, 27 inches wide and has an eight-foot-long panel in an L-shape. Exotic wood is used for the railing around the bar edge and the eight-inch panel underneath.

In this case, the 17 types of wood come from Australia, South America, Africa, Mexico and Central America, Donovan said. They range from the rich African black ebony to the breathtaking blood wood from South America. The black ebony is the most expensive wood, priced at about $90 a “board,” which measures about a foot long and a foot wide and a little more than an inch thick.

“It was just a hobby, but I got fascinated with the wood,” said Donovan, a Vietnam veteran who started working with the woods in 1999. With their children grown, he and his wife, Jeannine, decided to get out of Portland and headed to the Oxford Hills in September to transition a hobby into a business. They settled in Paris.

“I’m 62 years old, and I have a passion with this when I should be in the Bahamas,” Donovan said Friday as he sat at the bar he created and installed two weeks ago.

The woods come in strips that Donovan mills then laminates.

“There’s no rhyme or reason with exotic woods,” he said of how he creates pieces. “I never do the same thing twice.”

The business, Exotic Wood Products, is in Market Square in the heart of the business district. He primarily builds custom bar tops and countertops. His daughter Caroline, the owner of the company, who will graduate from the University of Southern Maine next year, will help him market the pieces to both residents and businesses.

Donovan said he has a large inventory of pieces, such as coffee tables, in his store and hopes to sell them to clear space for expanding his bar and countertop business.

Donovan knows some of the pieces are inexpensive to some, but he said, “The price is soon forgotten. But the unique elegance always remains.”

“It’s an heirloom,” he concludes as he proudly looks over his latest creation.


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