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Turning trash into treasures

February 25, 2013

Brandon Hughes shows off the piano bar he created through the conversion of an old upright piano, which is on display at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore on South Market Street. Bids are being taken for the finished work.

Hear the words "piano bar" and the image that comes to mind is an establishment featuring a talented musician, entertaining from a piano setting.
Oftentimes the artist both sings and plays tunes requested by the customers.
There's another connotation for piano bar locally, however. This is the result of an unusual creation of Brandon Hughes, an employee of the Habitat ReStore in Benton.
Hughes, proving himself to be a skilled craftsman, took an old piano that had been donated to the nonprofit agency's facility and turned it into a stationary bar complete with glassware and other appointments.
It literally has become a "piano bar," enhanced with an appropriate wall hanging.
ReStore manager Cora Halborson said she saw a similar thing displayed in an antique store. She was aware of Hughes' skills and asked him he would consider a restoration effort with one of the upright pianos that had been donated to the agency.
More than wiliing, Hughes accepted the challenge.
He said the project "took about 15 hours from start to finish" and began with "gutting it."
"I sanded it down and built shelves on it and then installed LED lights," he said.
Although the strings are still intact — and still make musical sounds when one takes a hand across them — the keyboard is no longer attached.
Hughes turned it into a wall hanging that currently is displayed directly above the finished product.
The bar is now up for bids from customers at the ReStore location on South Market Street.
Hughes said he enjoyed all of the time he spent on this effort.
"I like repairing things and making them useful," Hughes said. "I plan to take another old piano and make a desk."
Previously, he's created benches by combining a headboard and footboard of a bed and using tile to form the seat.
Habitat ReStore personnel are applauding Hughes' talent.
"Having bid items helps boost our profits," Halborson said.
"We'll be getting more money for the piano bar as what it is now than we would have as just a piano," she said.
Hughes said woodworking is a hobby he enjoys.
"My first project was a baby bed I built with my father (David Hughes of Vilonia)," he said.
The most difficult project he said he's undertaken was installing cedar cabinetry and a vanity in a bathroom of his home.
"I live in a 1944 house on South Street," he said. "It's so old that nothing is totally square, so I have to work around it.
"I had no interest in woodworking till I built the bed for for my first son," he added.
Bidding on the piano bar is continuing until Wednesday, Halborson said. The opening bid was for $250.
Hughes' family includes his wife, Malissa, and two sons, who are 2 1/2 and 2 months.
He has worked at the Habitat ReStore for more than five years.

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