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

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    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.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.9017
    JPY
    USD
    102.66
    GBP
    USD
    0.7443
    CAD
    USD
    1.2990
    INR
    USD
    67.600

    Rates may not be current.