- Associated Press - Saturday, March 15, 2014

STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) - It’s a trade that dates back centuries, but revamping old furniture seems to be just as relevant today.

At Gerardo Gonzalez Upholstery on Fairfield Avenue in Waterside, they’re taking tattered, broken-down chairs, benches and couches and breathing new life into them.

“I do everything,” owner Gerardo Gonzalez said. “I love this kind of work. I also make custom furniture.”

On a recent afternoon, Gonzalez scurried around the front room at the business, pointing to different pieces, covered with jewel-toned fabrics. A purple and green bench and a red and white chair, with geometric patterns, were among the featured items.

“You see this one, this was a little chair and we made it bigger,” Gonzalez said, of a unique looking bench, covered with brilliant orange and red fabric.

Gonzalez’s business is in the middle of an industrial building, conveniently located near a fabric wholesaler. While he’s been in this spot for eight years, his road there started a long time ago, in another country.

“I came from Colombia,” he said. “My father had the same business there.”

Gonzalez said he trained under his father, then came to this country 20 years ago, looking for a similar type of job. He worked at other businesses in White Plains and Stamford, before opening his own place. About 85 percent of his work comes from decorators and is mostly from word of mouth.

Strolling around, Gonzalez stopped at the frame of an antique white bench and said, “This is a really old piece and they brought it to us to put a cushion on.”

An adjoining room was filled with bed frames and headboards, which Gonzalez said they also custom make, along with window treatments.

Most of the woodworking is crafted in a large attic room.

Heading into the main room, Gonzalez showed where much of the upholstery work gets done. There was a drafting table in the middle of the room, with several half-completed projects on the outskirts.

“People don’t do good work and we try to do every line perfect,” Gonzalez said, running his hand along the seams of a chair. “It’s really hard to get good people, but we explain, we try to do it more professional.”

In a back room, there were several sewing machines lined up and a man lying down, taking his lunch break. “He’s a wonderful upholsterer,” Gonzalez said.

Other small workrooms contained a variety of fabrics, ranging in style, color and texture; pieces of stuffing; cushions and springs. Gonzalez said he deals with a handful of different companies, including Kravet Fabrics next door.

Standing at a long drafting table, Gonzalez explained that he hires professional designers to work on furniture and draperies. Though he never went to school for design, he said he’s learned from experience and creates some pieces himself.

Just as he learned, Gonzalez said employees have to figure out how to take furniture apart, put it back together and where to place the springs.

“And little by little, they learn,” he said.

At another station, employee Sonia Cabrera was working on some draperies. She pulled down an overhead iron and pressed the border.

In the main room, Jesus Castellanos, was reupholstering two matching chairs, with expensive hand-printed fabric that was made to look antique. Through a translator, he said he likes everything about the job.

“They like to get something old that turns out really beautiful,” said Maria Terrazas, Gonzalez’s assistant of several years.

Among the numerous jobs underway, a couch was being reupholstered nearby with a dark gray velvet material. Terrazas said she’s learned all about the business and what materials (such as that one) are harder to cut.

“It’s a roller coaster,” she said of the business. “Usually this time of year is slow, but we are busy right now.”


Information from: The Advocate, https://www.stamfordadvocate.com

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