From feed to high-end furniture.
As of next week, the warehouse at 20 Arthur St. N. in Elmira, which used to house the Martin Mills store, will instead house furniture fit for millionaires.
Elmira resident Kenji Orita, owner of Tiger Wood Working, along with partner Fergus Fantuz, a carver and woodworker, last month moved his Kitchener business to Elmira.
The two men, who prior to this venture ran their own independent businesses, joined forces after a new owner purchased the building where they previously rented space in Kitchener and raised the rental prices significantly. Deciding to bring together their specific areas of expertise, the men teamed up and will be ready for business next week.
Orita has years of experience making high-end furniture and interiors, specializing in personal libraries and dens for wealthy customers, many of whom live in Oakville (a recent order for a door the men were working on, for instance, was priced at $2,800).
Orita, who was raised in Japan in a home by the ocean, and who had a greater knowledge of fishing than anything having to do with luxurious woodwork, learned quickly when he immigrated to Canada years ago.
Fantuz, a graduate of Elmira District Secondary School, specializes in ornamental woodcarving.
Colonial and Bulova’s grandfather clock lines are among some of the high profile contracts on his résumé.
“Those companies were just strictly feeding me work,” he said. Fantuz has also done a lot of ornamental woodwork for area churches.
Though Fantuz always had an interest in carving, and has been doing it for some 20 years, he actually tried a few other careers before landing on woodworking. While at EDSS, Fantuz thought about going into computers, but instead, after school studied graphic design. One day he saw a poster advertising a boat build for “a guy in Toronto” and signed on to the project. Fantuz helped build the catamaran, and has been interested in woodworking ever since.
While oak might be one of the more common types of wood for furniture among some mainstream circles, Orita and Fantuz prefer to work with bird’s eye maple and mahogany.
“I don’t like the (oak) grain; it’s not rich, it’s too coarse, too wild” said Orita, noting that most of his customers ask for mahogany and the maple.
Though making exclusively high-end furniture out of less common types of wood might narrow the potential client base, it also has its benefits said Fantuz.
“The problem is when you’re being competitive, and you’re in the market where you’re dealing with all the other companies doing the same thing, then you’re just cutting each other’s throat and you don’t go anywhere. If you’re dealing with customers who don’t ask you how much, they just pay you what the job requires, then you can make some money and do some nice work,” said Fantuz.
Tiger Wood Working doesn’t have a website, nor do the men plan on doing much advertising: the work often comes to them. With a solid client base already, many contracts come through word-of-mouth and can include anything.
“We could make anything, really – so long as they pay our price,” Orita quipped, noting that many of their customers are millionaires, many of whom live in homes that are up to 28,000 square feet in size.
As for his furniture at home, Orita opts for a less lavish style.
“We’ve got lots of cardboard at home,” he joked.