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 For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space 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.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7768
JPY
USD
108.84
GBP
USD
0.6124
CAD
USD
1.0999
INR
USD
61.042

Rates may not be current.