Country Charm Furniture: new owner looks to build on reputation
Experienced and skilful staff are a crucial part of any successful business. Michael Smith looks at one such operation just north of Auckland.Owner Malcolm Edwards (left) with employees Alan Swainbank (centre) and Shaun Blunen.
Country Charm Furniture began life as a small-scale operation in 1990. Lesley and Grant Jacobs bought the business in 2008 and undertook significant expansion – which included combining with Silverdale Furniture Restorations (founded in 2003) to widen their service to customers.
In February of this year, both businesses were sold to cabinetmaker Malcolm Edwards. Malcolm did his apprenticeship at Laws Cabinetmakers on the North Shore of Auckland in the 1980s – sparked by a love of design and working with wood to create furniture of the highest quality.Left & centre: Coffee table before and after restoration. Right: Two arms of the same business.
ContinuityHe says it made good sense to buy both operations, thus maintaining a variety of expertise under one roof. And he was keen to retain the current staff and their knowledge of the trade.
“Jim Barrow, our French polisher, has been working in his field for over 50 years and does amazing work. He is dedicated to his craft and has worked on every type of furniture imaginable. There are very few like him in New Zealand.
“Shaun Blunen, our young apprentice, is two years into his apprenticeship through Competenz. His reports are always very good and he has a great future in the industry. He is studying to be a furniture maker and then wants to go on to study cabinetmaking and wood polishing.
“We also have Alan Swainbank who has an extensive background in manufacturing … and Scot Wilson and myself as cabinetmakers with over 30 years’ combined experience.
“Our office staff are also an important part of the operation. They have a very friendly and professional approach, and go out of their way to help our customers.”Left: A wonderfully restored dresser. Centre & right: Tigerwood side table before and after.
Malcolm says there are important delineations between the two arms of the business. Essentially Country Charm Furniture is involved in creating bespoke items, working to clients’ tastes and specifications.
He is always happy to discuss the style of furniture required and to suggest a colour/finish. “We can source a wide array of timbers – usually from local yards. They include natives like rimu, tawa and kauri, and various exotics such as mahogany, oak, beech, ash and walnut.
“And we make a variety of bespoke furniture – from chairs/benches and stools to tables and bedroom furniture. Items can be made to complement a client’s existing furniture.”
Staff are also experienced in modifying furniture – for example, altering wall units or dining tables for people who are downsizing. And they are able to undertake a broad range of repairs to broken or damaged furniture – which extends to cane, rattan, leadlights, glass and upholstery.
Silverdale Furniture Restorations Ltd, meanwhile, concentrates on restoring antique or modern wooden furniture. Malcolm says they produce high-quality restorations – exemplified by their approach to stripping the original paint, varnish or other coatings.
He emphasises that they don’t use dip tanks – a convenient but abrasive method which involves submerging furniture in a chemical bath. It can remove any previous finish, but can also cause veneer to loosen and joints to become unglued, among a host of other problems.
Instead they prefer to strip by hand, using a small amount of solvent to gently remove unwanted material by means of a cloth or wire brush. Any furniture restorer worth their salt will be experienced in hand stripping.
Malcolm is keen to continue the previous owners’ efforts to support local businesses – notably for the operation’s cane work and metal fabrication, and sourcing paint, glass and fabrics.
And since taking over the business he has been pleased to note that much of their work comes through word-of-mouth referrals – the lifeblood of many small firms.
– Michael Smith
All images: © Country Charm Furniture