Ten years ago, Kurt Pratka decided to give handmade wooden cutting boards to his friends and family for Christmas.

A year later, he had more than 500 orders for the handcrafted boards, which he had been making at nights and on the weekends in his free time.

The custom gifts he started giving as presents were the foundation of Tin Roof Kitchen & Home, the company Kurt Pratka runs, along with his father and brother, in El Campo. Nowadays, Tin Roof makes a wide range of handcrafted wood products that are sold throughout South Texas.

Although Pratka founded Tin Roof, the Pratkas’ woodworking tradition started with his father, Mark Pratka. He picked up the basics of the craft from Cub Scouts and kept working at the hobby over the years, building much of his own home and later teaching Kurt and his brother Brent the trade.

The Pratka men work together through a network of companies. Mark opened his first company, Mark’s Machine Co. in El Campo in 1982. Later, the family started Tough Country, a bumper manufacturing company where Brent works as CEO. Tin Roof is the third and smallest of the businesses, but the one they love the most.

“I think, to all of us, our true passion is over here,” Kurt said about Tin Roof’s wood shop in El Campo. “We all enjoy seeing the transformation of taking a fallen tree and turning it into something that’s going to last with a family for generations.”

The companies have grown in large part because of the work of Kathy Socha, the office and sales manager for Tin Roof. Socha started working with the Pratka family when she was 12 years old as the brothers’ babysitter, and has stayed with the family’s businesses ever since. For Socha, Tin Roof’s work connects her to her own parents. Her dad worked as a carpenter, and her mom worked for the company that was previously located at Tin Roof’s wood shop.

After starting with their signature cutting boards, the Pratkas have branched out into any wood product they, or their customers, have dreamed up. They make dining tables and boardroom meeting tables, some of them inlaid with turquoise or objects of special significance to the buyer.

Tin Roof makes a range of furniture, including butcher block stands, coffee tables and bar stools. In recent years, the team has started making custom furnishings for homes, building staircases, kitchen islands, fireplace mantels and more.

You can spot their handmade works throughout institutions in South Texas, like at El Campo’s Greek Bros bar, where they built the doors, and at the Marriott Marquis Houston, where they worked on a number of special projects.

The Pratkas take pride in the fact that their products are Texas made with Texas wood. The majority of their work is made from pecan trees found in Wharton County. Tin Roof almost exclusively uses reclaimed wood, meaning it’s wood that’s been found or felled by a storm but that isn’t harvested. For some projects, Tin Roof will work with other local trees that have been reclaimed or import a special kind of wood for a special order.

Some Tin Roof products can be purchased online on their website, and larger works can be purchased at their showroom in El Campo. You can also find Tin Roof products for sale at Buc-ee’s, Prasek’s Smokehouse, Home Goods, TJ Maxx, Gallery Furniture in Houston as well as some small boutique stores in the area. You can also buy online at Tin Roof’s website, Etsy and Houzz.

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Ciara McCarthy covers local health issues for the Victoria Advocate as a Report for America corps member. You can reach her at cmccarthy@vicad.com or at 580-6597 or on Twitter at @mccarthy_ciara.

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Health Reporter

Ciara McCarthy covers public health and health care for the Advocate as a Report for America corps member. Questions, tips, or ideas? Please get in touch: cmccarthy@vicad.com or call 361-580-6597.

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