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Soft spot for furnishings


GREEN BANANAS MEDIA

Soft spot for furnishings

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IT IS STILL A WHILE BEFORE Carlington O’Connor expands his fledgling St Michael business, but that has not stopped him from making plans to ensure its continued success.

O’Connor told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY that he had been upholstering and repairing furniture after developing a love for it when he worked at a furniture factory in his native Jamaica. He said he “loves to repair things and take old things and turn them brand new”.

“I like to design, so a lot of the footstools that I do, I actually design them myself,” O’Connor added.

He said he wanted one day to have his own business doing home furnishings and, naturally, when he moved to Barbados his passion for it continued while he worked with a furniture manufacturer.

It was only in “May/June” last year that he decided to branch out on his own and start O’Connor’s Home Furnishings. Business is not booming but it is steady and he said that he never takes on more than he can do.

“It has been going good so far. I was surprised. I didn’t know I would get such a good response already. A lot of people like the footstool. They say, ‘Wow! What is it? It can open?’

“A lot of people are interested and they come and some say they want it bigger and some want it smaller, all types of different sizes,” he said of his very popular storage footstools/pouffes.

Orders are also being placed for stools containing children’s favourite characters and a lot of them are coming from nurseries.

“I start doing a lot more of them than the regular ones. You tell me what you want and I do it,” O’Connor added. carlington-o-connor-1

From his location next to a busy traffic artery, he takes his time and builds custom pieces for discerning customers, or he repairs sofas, not only covering them but sometimes rebuilding the entire frame.

“It’s like a chair brand new all over again. If it is a bad frame, I repair it. I can’t give back the customer a bad frame so I have to repair everything,” the owner and manager said.

“I’ve been doing upholstery for ten years now. For custom pieces, you can bring the design that you want and I would tell you how long it will take and we go from there. I will tell you how much fabric you need and whatever else you need to do or if you want my design you could get that and put your touch to it.”

O’Connor said it was about satisfying the customer and giving them what they wanted.

No hidden costs

He assesses the amount of work required before starting and tells the person upfront so there are no hidden costs. He also offers advice on how to care for the furniture so that it will last – at least more than four years in some instances.

He said leatherette covers should be wiped with only water, no chemicals, including those people use in their hair. He said those chemicals damaged the material.

“Fabric is much easier to clean. As long as you keep dirt away from it, it will last,” he noted.

The wood used to build the frame is also a factor in its longevity.

He has “an idea” about the direction in which he wants to take O’Connor’s Home Furnishings and that includes hiring people to work with him. He said he likes teaching people the trade and does so wherever he has lived.

“When I was in Jamaica working, I taught a lot of youngsters because I always thought it is best to have a skill, so I taught who was interested. Right now, I have a youngster who comes around me sometimes and I teach him.

“I don’t have the money to do it right now, that’s the problem. I’ve got to take my time and build and work by myself until I can get the money that I need to do it,” said the small businessman.

One of the areas in which he will also be expanding is stitching.

“I do throw cushions but I don’t really stitch. I cut them and give somebody the fabric to stitch but [soon] I’ll be getting my machine and stitching myself.

“I can stitch . . . I was scared of the machine but now I realise I have to get used to the machine, so I’m getting my own so I can learn to stitch properly,” he said. (GBM)

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