Paul Nosak says he never met a tree he didn't like, though you wouldn't quite call him a tree hugger. For the fact is, he does make his living trimming and cutting them up and down.
But his longstanding love for the outdoors and his great respect for the urban woodland in which he works has enabled him to carve a unique niche in a business that has been looked at as mercenary to commercial interests of arrogant electric power companies and greedy real estate moguls.
As owner of Nosak Tree Service, 2121 E. Ute St., he does his part to save the environment in a creative way, working the best he can with nature given his life's work. Over the years, he has discovered, (crediting his inventive and ingenuous his Polish heritage) practical uses for the timber generated by his buzz saws. Seeing trees as beautiful works of art in the environment, they continue their artsy life cycle anew--as a table, chair, cabinet, gazebo, church pew or any other way imaginable.
"Instead of taking out a tree and throwing it away, I can take the wood and build a room, wood floors, cabinets, shelves and more," he said.
Other cutters, he said, will take the wood to a green waste dump. This wood with the intent of using the wood for or giving it away for people who could use it for their personal use, such as backyard gazebos, he said.
Nosak calls this "urban timber recovery and renewal."
He is fast-talking, but cogently believable with genuinely good ideas. A galloping opportunist, an itinerant entrepreneur, he also calls himself an environmentalist, and he's in love with work, family, God and all that life entails--but not necessarily in that order.
He spent an early lifetime in a nomadic-like lifestyle of hustling jobs about the state and country. He and his family recently survived a complete loss of their home due to fire.
Nosak, originally from Greentown, Pennsylvania, the youngest of seven children, began his career quite modestly by driving around Tulsa in his truck (which had a door missing), as he says with a slight grin, "knocking on doors, leaving fliers, and asking if I can clean their gutters. I put out 45 fliers before I got my first job."
He made $90 on his first cleaning.
Continuing to think what other jobs he could do, in 1991 he realized that no one in the area specialized in roofing with tile and slate, so he built his own tile and slate roofing company and did quite well, roofing many larger homes in Tulsa and businesses, including the Mayo and Skelly mansions.
"They were 80-year old roofs," he says, and there were very few people in town who knew how to replace those types of roofs."
And, he did it in an environmentally cognizant way--retiling with the house's same tiles, only needing to replace the under layers of sealing under the tiles.
"The 9/11 tragedy hit me hard," he said, as it did many other businesses, and work really slowed down, forcing him to consider other options. Growing up in Pennsylvania, his family had been in the tree-cutting business for years, and so after the February 2002 ice storm in Ponca City, he readied his crane truck, and with two other guys, headed to Ponca to cut and trim damaged trees, capitalizing on this work opportunity. This three-month job sustained his company, at least for the time being.
Returning to Tulsa in May, he continued in the roofing business and other miscellaneous construction jobs throughout the summer. Then, in early December through January, he traveled to Charlotte, NC, and to Lexington, KY, for work.
"It was this work at Lexington that showed me the value of the wood I was cutting down," he recalled. His job here was to cut and move an 80- to 100-foot cherry tree, with a 2.5-feet diameter, for which he was paid $3,000.
"By this time, I was learning the types of trees and their indigenousness," Nosak said, seemingly impressed with his findings and slowly building his appreciation for this very simple, yet important commodity called wood.
His interest with this cherry tree was to not cut it down and have it disposed, but rather to find use in the beautiful wood that it was. He took it to a local mill to have it debarked, cut into large planks, and kiln dried, which can be a 60 to 90-day process, only to return later to get it.
In the meantime, Nosak, always the opportunist, took off to Florida, staying there for seven months "to help with the clean-up work after Hurricane Charley in August, 2004. I almost lost my cherry wood worth $5,000. In the process, I went broke--with the all my trucks (sub-contracting with FEMA for some), equipment and labor costs--because insurances claims were so slow in coming in."
Back in Oklahoma, January 2005, Nosak's next nomad-like venture took him to St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church, Okmulgee, OK, for a 22-week project to retile the Church's roof and help with many other projects, including gutters, placing the dome of the Church and cutting trees. Being Catholic himself, he was happy to assist, and donating some work gratis.
"The oak trees we cut (at St. Anthony's), I took a friend in Ponca City who dried them in his kiln, and I gave them back to the Church to use as pew backs in the Church," he said.
"My mom raised me right," he smiled, as he reminiscenced to childhood, particularly about how many years in a row he would go with his mom to Washington, D.C. to attend the Pro-Life Rally.
Being in D.C., for the Rally in 1981 was particularly exciting, for many reasons. Little Nosak was able to slip just beyond the ropes as President Reagan was walking from the Treasury to the White House, only two days after his inauguration. He asked for and got a personal autograph from him just for the asking.
Time kept rolling on, attending to jobs here and there--a city microburst here, a hurricane there, and roofing jobs in between.
"After the St. Anthony job, in July 2005 I began hitting the tree business hard," he said. Through some ups and downs, he survived the inevitable hardships of his business.
It was not long before he was asked to remove many trees on an estate in town, one tree being a walnut tree, as Nosak says, "possibly one of the largest in the country. It had been uprooted for two years. They [the owners of this property] wanted the wood to go Father George for use at St. Anthony's Orthodox Christian Church by TU," he recalls. "The base was 48 inches, and the first limb was more than 34 feet (from the ground). At 24-feet high, the diameter was 38 inches. This tree was an anomaly in this area," he said. The tree was in excess of 12,000 pounds.
Soon after, Nosak was seeing the benefit of saving the trees for building and restoration projects and, although in a seemingly less than earth-friendly way, he found his niche in the environmental world to cut trees.
He eventually bought a saw mill, and now he cuts urban wood where other saw mills will not (for fear of hitting metal or another foreign object which has been hammered or screwed into the tree). Nosak can cut one monolithic piece from some of the larger trees and cut pure logs from these trees.
Thankful for his recent success, he is aware of the concerns of the aging population and supports programs directed toward the elderly and those in the military serving in Iraq.
"I'm a patriotic American and mom raised me that way," he said.
"Under-estimate and over-deliver" he says is a good motto to have. "If we save the wood and build a few customs things for people, it's worth it to me and the environment."
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