News / Economy

Despite Recession, Craftsmanship Still Sells

Craftsmen Survive Despite Uncertain Economyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
March 14, 2014 8:23 PM
Craftsmen at a furniture manufacturing shop in Virginia are still making -- and selling -- beautiful, one-of-a-kind products, despite a sluggish economy and competition from discount furniture stores. VOA’s Julie Taboh visited the shop and its showrooms to discover the secret of the company’s enduring success.

Craftsmen Survive Despite Uncertain Economy

— Craftsmen at a furniture manufacturing shop in Virginia are still making -- and selling -- one-of-a-kind products despite a sluggish economy and competition from discount furniture stores. 

Festus Kamara has been a woodworker almost all of his adult life. He currently works with about 40 other craftsmen at Hardwood Artisans in rural Virginia.

“It pretty much makes me feel good knowing that I’m making things that customers get to appreciate when they get to the house,” he said. “And it’s a lifetime thing for them to always come in their room and see it and love it.”

That feeling of pride is at the heart of this American company which has been in business since 1976.
Mark Gatterdam (left) one of six partners, all craftsmen, who own and operate Hardwood Artisans, at work in the shop. (Photo by Erin Gallagher)Mark Gatterdam (left) one of six partners, all craftsmen, who own and operate Hardwood Artisans, at work in the shop. (Photo by Erin Gallagher)
x
Mark Gatterdam (left) one of six partners, all craftsmen, who own and operate Hardwood Artisans, at work in the shop. (Photo by Erin Gallagher)
Mark Gatterdam (left) one of six partners, all craftsmen, who own and operate Hardwood Artisans, at work in the shop. (Photo by Erin Gallagher)


The craftsmen and women can build anything out of any wood but they typically use birch, maple, cherry and walnut primarily from the United States, and mahogany from overseas, all from sustainably grown trees.

They use solid wood to make one-of-a-kind products the old-fashioned way -- by hand, often using traditional tools. The company offers everything from simple plant stands to elaborate, custom-installed wall systems, to complete kitchens.

Quality service

Mark Gatterdam is one of six partners, all craftsmen, who own and operate Hardwood Artisans. The company makes more than 500 items to sell in its four showrooms in the Washington, D.C. area.

Although the products are expensive, Gatterdan says they still sell.

“How do you survive a recession? When the phone rings, you answer it. And you do exactly what you say you’re going to do,” he said.

That often means creating a custom piece, which Gatterdam said is about half of what they build.

"I’ll visit with a customer, go to the home, pull measurements and design something and work it up from there,” he said.

Gene Rossidivito is a craftsman who now works at Hardwood Artisans in an administrative capacity, literally dealing with the nuts and bolts of the business.

What Rossidivito said he likes best about working at the furniture-making facility is working with the customers directly.

“There is no middle man,” he said, and added that he feels a personal sense of accomplishment “seeing that everybody gets what they’re supposed to get when they’re supposed to get it.”
A custom kitchen in the Hardwood Artisans showroom. (J. Taboh/VOA)A custom kitchen in the Hardwood Artisans showroom. (J. Taboh/VOA)
“We talk with the customers, we find out what they want, if they have questions we give them answers so we really have the opportunity to make sure they’re satisfied.”

Changing demographics

Part of that dedicated customer service is adapting to changing demographics.

Gatterdam noted that their customer base is getting younger.

“Our customer used to be in the 45-65-year range,” he said. “But I’m seeing a lot of 30-something year-olds coming in.”

And, with the growing trend of telecommuting, more and more clients are spending money on home offices.

“People have spent a considerable amount of money modifying their homes to make their home office just like their work office,” he said.

But whether it's a desk or a dresser, Gatterdam says quality craftsmanship is what keeps customers coming back.

“Nobody needs a $4,000 dresser. Nobody. But we sell them every week,” he said. “If you buy one from an importer…nobody really goes in there and expects something to last a lifetime. You come in and buy a dining room set from us…there’s an understanding that this will be the last time you have to do this.”

Gatterdam says he has high hopes for the future of Hardwood Artisans.

“We’re still here because we didn’t compromise. And maybe 90 percent of the furniture businesses are out, because they did. People are always amazed, but I don’t consider what I do any different than say a doctor; a doctor works under a certain code of ethics,” he said. “Well why wouldn’t a furniture maker be the same? It’s no different. I want to go home at night knowing that I did the best job I could.”

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7305
JPY
USD
101.53
GBP
USD
0.5830
CAD
USD
1.0656
INR
USD
60.075

Rates may not be current.