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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8769
    JPY
    USD
    107.28
    GBP
    USD
    0.6842
    CAD
    USD
    1.2528
    INR
    USD
    66.384

    Rates may not be current.