Wednesday, August 4, 2010

an odd Furniture Finishing reminder

Last week I read were Jennifer Convertibles had filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection. When you've been around the industry, seeing a furniture company restructure is not uncommon. But Jennifer Convertibles hit a bit closer to home.

It was roughly 20 years ago when managing a custom shop, that I made a decision to change direction and sell the shop to Designers and Sales Reps by emphasing the finishing capabilities of the shop. When I saw that Jennifer Convertibles had financial issues, the "silver cloud finish" floated over head.

The "silver cloud" was one of the finishes created by Bob D. at a time when the shop needed a win. It was used on a Wall Unit, in the home of a head honcho at the time of Jennifer Convertibles.

Having just arrived in this shop and understanding how people hate change, a different direction was going to be hard for the floor to digest. This was compounded by bringing in the best cabinetmaker to this day I have even seen as foreman. Adding more to an already unsettled shop floor.

It didn't take long before Paul C. won over the floor as foreman. I knew he could do it. While in Grad School, Paul was Foreman at a Custom Shop where on my off-school days, he would have me cut to keep the benches working and assemble when needed. To this day I am greatful for how he handled me.

So now lets bring in Brenda K. Brenda was at the time just starting to get high profile "neighborhood" jobs. She wasn't just a decorator, she was an Interior Designer. Brenda took the job from a framed space to a finished room. Not unusual, but Brenda had exceptional vision, good room communication skills, poor furniture design skills. The only thing I could say was, "do I have the shop for you".

We worked through the design of a 15 to 18 foot, floor to ceiling wall unit, complete with wet bar, projection screen, doors sliding on construction pocket door hardware, pullout pier cabinet storage, wire chases, speakers, amps, glass, wall dimmed high-hats, the whole nine. The unit was magnificent all finished up in the shop's custom "Silver Cloud" finish.

The decision was to install this one with a team of 3 and as the cabinetmaker's, along with an electrician to wire the unit and plumber for the wet bar, we were the last to install. Mr. and Mrs. Jennifer Convertibles were expectantly on the anxious side. The install went without a hitch even with working on top of custom inaly carpeting and just as if it were yesterday, when tip time came and the moneyroll of a happy customer came my way, I remember calling Paul over and having Mr Jennifer Convertibles make Paul the focus of the shop's work. As happy cabinetmakers we all headed out when I got a holler to come back, wondering now what, I was greeted with a personal business card, a personal thank you, followed by "call me". 30 years and counting, that was the biggest tip I ever got.

Sorry to see the financial stress that Jennifer Convertibles is going through, but I preferr other memories of this company and its early management.

3 comments:

David Pruett said...

Neil -

This was a fascinating story to read. Sad news for sure. Having followed you for so long I could hear the inflection of your voice as I read the story and smiled when you concluded the biggest tip was the hard earned respect that lead to a fruitful business relationship. Lots of good insight in this episode of Furnitology Productions . . . insight that is still timely and important for a young man entering the industry today.

Neil....a Furnitologist said...

David...as usual you get it and allows me to add a bit. Lately I've been seeing all this talk of Decorators and pricing and how to go into business as a woodworker.

What nobody ever talks about is that woodworking is a completely different animal and personal to the product and approach one manufactures. I should add, manufactures at a given time in his or her woodworking life. There is no romatic formula to making a living at woodworking, its selling the romance that some make their living on, not woodworking. The younger internet woodworker needs to see through this. I've seen it before and we are seeing it again.

This industry changes so much that no formula will be flexible enough to withstand all the many woodworking subsets. Many of which few know.

I'm looking forward to see where the internet woodworker fits in all this. I'm hoping it moves North American woodworking in a direction of creativity not recycled yakety-yak!

Bruce said...

Neil,

Great story. Knowing you, I can understand the respect you had for your shop foreman and for the appreciation you have for your clients. Looking forward to more posts.

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