Kennedy Custom Upholstery

Published On: May 1, 2014Categories: In the Shop

How did you get started?

Trevor grew up in the upholstery trade; his stepfather had his upholstery shop in the basement of the family home, which meant Trevor was always in the shop after school. By the time he was a teenager, his stepdad started to formally train him, and by the time he was 19 he was already upholstering for customers. I went to college and worked as a scientist in Philadelphia for five years before I met Trevor at a reggae concert. We got married two years later and moved to the beach. Trevor took a job at a marine canvas shop while I went back to school to get my master’s degree in interior design. He began taking on his own work and set up a small shop in our garage. I would help him by tearing down and cutting fabric and foam. Then it just got to the point where his job was getting in the way of our growing business, and the opportunity to rent the perfect shop presented itself, so we took the leap to go completely out on our own.

What other products do you produce?

We make a lot of outdoor cushion sets, window seat cushions, built-in banquettes and all types of furniture reupholstery. Just this month we added a line of new furniture for sale in our shop. To make that possible we partnered with a family furniture manufacturer in North Carolina that is making the line for us. The line is made to order, and customers can pick any fabric. We wanted to be able to expand what we could sell without adding the production burden to our already swamped workroom.

Who are your main customers?

Our market is interesting because we are an upholstery shop rather than a canvas shop. We get marine projects, but our primary market is still home owners who are interested in furniture work. Within the marine market, our demographic is mostly the smaller sport fishing boats and the larger center-console boats.

Describe your shop layout.

When we first expanded into the second storefront, we had to convert what had formerly been an office into an upholstery shop. We replaced the carpet with a raised plywood floor, and then we designed the cutting tables with a friend who is a carpenter. We have a large cutting table and the sewing machine in the front of the shop, so it looks good from the street. Each workstation has an air hose for a staple gun that Trevor ran through the ceiling.

What is your workflow process?

We like to have customers email us about their project so we have time to look it over and get back with an estimate. Even if someone calls or comes into the shop, I like to get their email to send them an estimate; I don’t like throwing around numbers on the spot, because I find it too stressful and misleading. If the customer OKs the job, we finalize the materials and the scope of the work and send them an invoice. I like to let the customer know when we’re starting their project so they can start getting ready for the payment. That way we have time to arrange a time for delivery so that they can meet us with a check in hand. If it’s impossible for a customer to be there for delivery, I will arrange with them to pay with a credit card after I have sent them pictures of the finished product via email. Once a project is paid in full, we release it for delivery.

What is your product focus?

With his upholstery background, Trevor is really a cushion specialist. We get a lot of job requests for all new exterior cushions on fishing boats. We do coaming pads, bridge cushions, custom helm seats, etc.