CHHS teacher’s business flourishes


Safiya Ahmed

Mr. Pashina uses his woodworking skills to create custom cutting boards and bowls.

This story also appears in the March 2023 print edition of The Heights Herald.

Supporting small and local businesses as opposed to big, corporate entities, has recently been on the rise and business owners like Mr. Chris Pashina are all for it.

Pashina, otherwise known to students at Columbia Heights High School (CHHS) as the Home Wiring, Power Mechanics, Home Improvement and Plastics Technology teacher, owns and runs a small business called The Knotty Elm outside of school. In the midst of Covid-19 keeping everyone at home, while dealing with the frustrations of teaching over a screen, Pashina had the idea to start his small business. Using the skills he already had acquired with woodworking and from lessons his father taught him about entrepreneurship, he brought his idea to life.

Pashina came up with the company name The Knotty Elm, an ironic moniker and wood pun since elm trees don’t develop knots, and marks it’s beginning with a 2020 purchase of a lathe machine — a device that rotates a wooden workpiece, such as a bowl or spoon, that is connected to it. Pashina had the intent of just making small things like pens for fun at first. Shortly after, however, many small businesses started to gain more attention and customers, including The Knotty Elm.

“I sold 500 pens in less than a year and with all the proceeds from that, I bought bigger and better equipment and moved up in the world,” Pashina said. 

Pashina first started advertising his products at local farmer’s markets, which led him to making enough money to invest further in his business. He then continued to represent his business at larger craft fairs and art festivals around the metro area. 

 Pashina prioritizes his teaching job over his side hustle, though, and he closes down his business in the winter to focus on school and because, well, winter weather isn’t very friendly to wood glue.

“Wood glue has to be above 45 degrees for it to harden, so if it’s colder than 45 degrees like it is in Minnesota winter, it’s not going to work,” Pashina said. “So I shut down.”

The Knotty Elm doesn’t specifically focus on one big selling item as the brand image since every piece of woodwork is special and different in its own way, though Pashina does turn a lot of wood bowls and also makes inlay cutting boards. Other than this, he does take custom requests. As he is closed for the season, you can hope to see him back in business this summer and hopefully at your local farmer’s market or fair again too. You can take a look at his unique and one of a kind pieces he has made on his business Instagram @theknottyelm and view his products at