A Friend to the Earth
Written By Jordan Rosenfield
nside the wood shop of San Martin’s Terra Amico, four
dogs emerge from their sleepy spots between wood piles
and under tables laden with industrial saws and works in
progress. Happy music accompanies the whine of saws, and
employees stop what they’re doing to wave and smile as I’m
given a tour by owners Joe and Lisa Ranieri of their furniture
design and woodworking business, Terra Amico in San Martin.
It doesn’t just feel like a family operation, it is one. The
Ranieri’s are grooming their 24-year-old son Trevor, who helps
out, to take over one day. Their thirty-odd contractors and
employees are free to bring their dogs to work in the
Terra Amico is relatively new to San Martin, but it’s been
around for seven-plus years, during which the business has
undergone dramatic changes.
“I started it in my backyard,” Joe explained. “I had some
old wood I’d taken from a project at Silver Creek Country
GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN
Club that I designed and built a table out of.” The table sat in
the Ranieri’s yard for some years until Joe finally put it up on
Craigslist. It sold that same day and spawned a series of similar
requests he could barely keep up with fulfilling.
Before that, Joe, a LEED-certified green builder, had spent
many successful years in real estate. After the fallout from the
2008 market crash and recession, in which they lost a lot of
money, work opportunities were drying up.
“I had a lot of wood and we decided to see what we could
build out of it. We’d done a lot of flipping properties, but the
furniture thing was a whole new game for us,” Joe said.
The Rainieri’s believe in sustainability and keeping materials
out of landfills. In fact the business name, Terra Amico, means
“earth friend” in Italian—which is Joe’s heritage.
“We’ve accumulated a lot of stuff that might look like
garbage,” their son Trevor said during our small tour, “But
one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”