News: Sarasota's Mission Avenue Studio updates good older furniture! October 31 2016

 Below is a lovely write up from the Herald-Tribune

HERALD-TRIBUNE STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER

The furniture at Mission Avenue Studio has already stood the test of time.

The staff there just helps it catch up with the current fashion.

Their fabrics are typically worn and out of style. Their frames are often scratched and dinged. But beneath the signs of aging, Somoza sees great potential. The pieces are solid. They just need a little elbow grease and a makeover.

In the four years since Somoza started Mission Avenue Studio, he’s repurposed roughly 2,600 pieces. He'll finish somewhere between 700 and 800 this year alone. The idea is that his team can repair, paint and reupholster American furniture that dates from the mid-1940s to the early 1980s for less than it would cost to buy a modern equivalent.

 “If we invest $150 or $200 per piece, knowing that the frames are excellent, out comes a brand new piece,” Somoza said.

 

HERALD-TRIBUNE STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER

 

Somoza travels to auctions and sales from Tampa to Naples picking out pieces to refinish. Other times, his clients bring him furniture they’ve inherited from family members. These are pieces that are often well-loved and with high sentimental value but that don't necessarily fit with the owner's current taste or needs.

When it's feasible, the company handles in-house everything from refinishing to shipping. Jeff Ellis, the team’s restoration specialist, takes the furniture apart and scrapes the pieces clean until they’re like new. He patches up any cracks and dings and then puts it all back together.

The sweet spot

Somoza focuses on mid-century furniture because that period is a sweet spot when lumber companies still took great care in drying their wood but manufacturing was automated, so the wood is high quality and the pieces were cut with great precision. Those techniques kept the furniture from warping and losing form. Mid-century American furniture was made at a level of quality that is difficult to find today, Ellis said.

“American-made, they did really nice furniture back then, and they don’t make it like that anymore,” Ellis said. “Some places do, but not the majority of them. You see a lot of pressed wood instead of real wood.”

Most of the furniture that comes into the studio is brown, so Somoza brightens it up with reds, blues, purples, greens or oranges. When he reupholsters he uses modern designer fabrics. The sofas and chairs in his studio may be 70 years old, but by the time they leave his workshop they’re sporting the latest styles and patterns from designers such as Ralph Lauren, Kate Spade or Lilly Pulitzer.

“We think that one of the ways to add value is to add a fabric that is very high end and lasts longer and looks better,” Somoza said. “More work went into that fabric or that design than something that you find other places.”

 

HERALD-TRIBUNE STAFF PHOTO / DAN WAGNER

A modest beginning

Somoza started his company small. He refinished two cast iron urns and put them up for sale on onekingslane.com, a furniture and home décor website that initially specialized in vintage furniture but has since been acquired by Bed Bath and Beyond and expanded its modern stock. The urns sold quickly, so he moved to sofas and grew into furniture from there.

It didn’t take long before he outgrew his first 900-square-foot workspace on Central Avenue in the Rosemary District and moved into a 5,000-square-foot space at Northgate Boulevard and U.S. 301. Eventually, that proved too small, too. Now he operates out of a 10,000-square-foot space just north of 12th Street on Manhattan Avenue. He’s got another 14,000 square feet of storage across the street from his studio, and he’s already thinking about expanding again.

The concept has steadily caught on, but even though the bulk of the pieces are found in this region’s overwhelming used-furniture market, the majority of Mission Avenue’s buyers are in the northern states, said Samantha Mills, the company's chief operating officer.

The pieces vary in price based on fabrics and style, but some single chairs are priced in the low $200s, while other top $2,000. The staff of six takes turns driving a truck and delivering their finished products up the East Coast. They’re still using a freight company to ship to western states, but Somoza is looking into ways to expand his delivery capabilities.

Mission Avenue hit a milestone this year when it filled an order from South Dakota. Now the company has sent pieces to all 48 continental states.

 

Customers today and tomorrow

Only about 10 percent of their business comes from Sarasota; the rest floods in from online orders on their website and via the One Kings Lane site. Most of the buyers are Generation X-aged women who haven’t started families yet but are finally thinking about nesting and investing in furniture they’ll have for the long haul.

Still, Generation X is a small market. The company is banking on the millennial generation to bring Somoza's concept to the next level.

"My generation is kind of rebelling against the mass produced, the poorly made and not good quality," said Mills, a millennial.

 

 Mission Avenue Studio Staff Photo / Samantha Mills

It’s only a matter of time before the millennials start nesting and inheriting the outdated furniture their parents and grandparents have saved for them. Mission Avenue Studio can give them a way to take these things that have a story and turn them into something of their own.

But that market is a few years down the line, and Somoza plans to use the interim to perfect and expand his concept. He’d like to open other American hubs for Mission Avenue, likely in Philadelphia and somewhere in the Midwest and near California.

If and when the millennials finally settle down, he’ll be ready and he could have a presence in every corner of the country.

“They’re just now getting real jobs and making some money, and they’re beginning to get married,” Somoza said. “In about four or five years from now, they’re going to begin to nest and maybe have a child. I have time to get organized to attack that market when it gets ready.”

 

Written by Maggie Menderski, Retail Reporter at the Herald-Tribune

Read the original article here;

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