The secret life of a pallet: Exploring a booming Alabama business, its rustic-decor afterlife

Farmhouse decor is all the rage. Rustic, raw aesthetic has taken over Target shelves. The Fixer-Upper Gainess have put their stamp on pale wood paired with vines and white tile.

But, Jimmy Wilson doesn’t know much about all that.

What Wilson knows is covered in sawdust and sandwiched between miles of soybean crop and buried under the heat of Baldwin County. Wilson knows pallets for what they are.

Not tables, not wine bottle carriers, not bed frames or bar stools. Just pallets. Functional, travel-friendly, locally made wooden pallets.

Wilson gets calls from curious crafters asking about their pallet yard, but he won’t sell to individuals. That’s just not what we do, he said. So, the adventure doesn’t start with the actual transformation of the wood pallet, but rather finding one to transform.

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WOODEN PALLET PRICES REMAIN STEADY EVEN AS HARDWOOD LUMBER MARKET SLUMPS

Alabama-based Bay Wood Products Responds to Industry Concerns

jimmy wilson

(ROBERTSDALE, Ala.) May 20, 2019 - Across the U.S. this spring, the hardwood lumber market is in an unseasonable slump thanks to factors such as severe weather and decreased demand from foreign consumers.

Jimmy Wilson, founder and president of Bay Wood Products in Baldwin County, Ala., often gets questions about why wooden pallet and packaging prices haven’t trended downward, too. For 25 years, Bay Wood has manufactured wood pallets and crates for a variety of industries, using softwoods such as southern pine, abundant in Alabama.

“There’s not one simple explanation,” Wilson said, “but rather a multitude of reasons the price of low-grade wood used to make pallets and packaging products remain stable or even cost more in today’s market.”

Since at least mid-2018, pine (softwood) and red oak (hardwood) markets have been depressed. The high grade continues to stay depressed because the demand from its biggest consumer, China, has decreased as the foreign nation experiences a housing crisis and downturn in its economy.

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Letter from Founder and President, Jimmy Wilson

jimmy wilson

May 20, 2019

Dear Friends,

You may have heard that lumber prices are down nationally. So why are wooden pallet prices staying level or going up when the hardwood market is depressed? Here’s the rest of the story.

Like so many things, there’s not one simple answer. There are a multitude of factors making the price of low-grade lumber used to make pallets and other wood packaging products remain stable or cost more in today’s market.

Hardwood lumber used to build pallets is the low-grade part of the log, typically the center portion. Most pallets built by Bay Wood Products are created from softwood pine. 

Since at least mid-2018, pine (softwood) and red oak (hardwood) markets have been depressed. The high grade continues to stay depressed because the demand from its biggest consumer, China, has decreased as the foreign nation experiences a housing crisis and downturn in the economy.

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$1.5 million in
raw materials on site


$20 million
annual revenue


190 truckloads of
pallets monthly


Recycles up to 60
tons of wood scraps daily