In my pursuit of home furnishings companies who manufacture in America, I have been discovering many who are working and producing right here in our own backyard. New York has historically been a center of manufacturing. Yet with all of the closures and re-locations of industries over the years, which were previously centered here, there remain a handful of craftsmen and artisans still endeavoring to carry on the tradition of quality crafted furniture. It is pleasantly reassuring to know that as a design center, New York has many such firms to collaborate with to realize one’s creative vision.
In a society that is focused on quick, affordable solutions on many fronts, we must not lose sight of what the end product of interior design is. Quality equates to the finest level of luxury. In endorsing this way of thinking, I have decided to spotlight those small local businesses who are striving to provide just such a product and service to a discerning audience.
My first company to feature is John Boone Inc. Founded in 1990, John Boone and his partner Chris Lockwood combined their talents to create a design resource of the highest standard. When I refer to the clean, classic furniture line that they offer, the foremost attribute that comes to mind is the quality of the workmanship.
In the interest of finding out why they have held to this principle, and how manufacturing locally supports this tenet, I visited the showroom to talk with these gentlemen.
What is the primary reason JBI manufactures locally?
As with most things in life, it’s all about the relationship. Most of us would agree that good relationships take a lot of time and effort to develop, strengthen, and maintain. Most of our manufacturing relationships are over 20 years old now – with many of them pre-existing when we began JBI in 1990. In fact, it was several of our manufacturers that put the bug in our ear about branching out on our own when they hit tough times with other design showrooms they were doing business with.
Due in part to our combined past experiences in our interior design work, and then consequently in furniture design, Chris and I developed many tight, intimate relationships with local workrooms and their employees. Over our years in business, we’ve attended weddings, summer BBQ’s, birthday and anniversary parties, funerals, etc. with our collaborators and workroom personnel. But relationships aside, it’s the immediate contact and ease of communication with these folks that lead us to keep those relationships intact, and further develop them.
Because of our niche custom brand, where each and every order may be different from the previous one, we need the access to our various resources. We need the communication to be concise and accurate. We need to actually see each piece we produce from inception to completion – and all points in between. Daily phone calls, emails, and on-site shop visits are crucial for our order production to function correctly, and ultimately, for us to succeed – and most importantly, for us to assure our client’s success. We couldn’t do all of that as easily as we do if the resources were abroad.
Is there a monetary impact that our readers should be aware of?
It’s no secret that our brand primarily reaches out to an affluent clientele. At our price-point, our clients expect things to be performed and delivered in a certain way…as they should. They expect the product to be a fair value and of a certain quality. We need to perform our job using the best materials and stand behind our word. It’s a VERY small industry – especially at our end of the market, and you’re only as good as your last order. It’s got to be perfect – or as close to it as possible – or don’t bother doing it. But attaining quality comes at a cost – and especially so when the workroom employs legitimate talent. Local rent costs, city and state taxes, workman’s compensation and insurances, local costs of living and wages – all add up, and contribute to our price-point.
It might be cheaper to have something mass-produced elsewhere, but we were raised, and mentored in an understanding, that quality comes before price. It is better to have one great piece, than twenty cheap pieces that get thrown away in a few years.
Can you explain to me what the advantage of your perspective is, and how it benefits both your clients (and theirs) respectively?
Our number one asset: We sincerely care. They get the best out there. Besides our commitment to good design and business integrity, our materials are individually hand-selected and personally supervised, no matter what venue: metal, marble, wood veneer, leather hides, etc. Our clients have no clue what goes on to get our orders into their hands, but even after 20 years of service, we still have a great passion for creating the best products for our clients. Best bargain in town.
Quality lasts, and the design is timeless. We recently refinished a coffee table and étagère for a client that Paul [M. Jones] had produced 30 years ago. Ultimately it’s being green, our products don’t end up in the trash, they end up at auction or being used and passed down to another generation.
I understand that not everything that you offer in your product line is made here, why is that?
As above, some of our relationships are pre-existing. Our Jerome Sutter lighting was always produced in France for us. Our Laque de Chine tables were always produced in France, as well. Our Jean Roger lamps and urns are produced there, too. Aside from those collections, everything else is made here in New York.
These items are done in France strictly because of our relationships, and the quality that the workrooms have perfected over 3 or more generations.
There is an obvious philosophy attached to the JBI production process. In closing, could you give me a sense of what that is and how you have embraced your commitment to manufacturing locally in lieu of moving production to outside the US?
We keep it local by choice. We’ve been pursued over the years by companies in South America, the Ukraine, Spain, Canada, Indonesia, and even Africa. It would be terribly challenging to do what we do anywhere other than NY. We see each order incrementally through the production process. We believe in our talent and our combined background. We’ve been exposed to some fantastic people and firms over our years in NY. We take the best of our past, mix in our passion for going forward, and bring it to market in our own unique way. Our designs are made to last over time – not only structurally, but aesthetically. We’ve always believed in our sense of style, our commitment to keeping it local, and standing behind what we offer. We want our products to stand the test of time. We want to be proud of what we do and who we are as individuals – and as a company.
I guess it’s our upbringing on family farms. We only bought local. What we could not grow, we got from our local stores. It is the only way that we can see every piece of furniture that leaves our workrooms, knowing that with our own eyes we have seen every piece from the raw material to fitting the glass top. It is also about our commitment to our clients, and our many talented workrooms.
I would like to thank John Boone and Chris Lockwood for sharing their brand philosophy with me. If you are not already familiar with their exquisite lines of furniture and lighting, I invite you to visit their website and showroom(s) and see first hand why ‘Made In America’ is important to them and their clients.
Written by Carl Lana