Friday, August 09, 2013

Secrets of Success - The Teak Tree


David Stansfield, owner of The Teak Tree in the Old City Quarter describes himself as “a minimalist”.  Take one look around the store however, and you quickly recognize through the quality of the product, the attention to detail and the artistry of each piece, that he is a successful, accomplished artist who intimately understands the nature of his product and he is able to create pieces which will become timeless classics in any surrounding.  This week he shared with us his Secrets of Success.

DNBIA: How long have you been in business?
DAVID: I have been here in the Old City Quarter for 9 years. I began in 1999 as a wholesale, retail supplier in Vancouver operating as Enchanted Imports for four years, before moving to this location and opening a retail business.

DNBIA: What made you choose to open a business in downtown Nanaimo?
DAVID: I am from a small town in the Interior of BC called Rossland.  When I came to Nanaimo, I liked the natural surroundings and I felt that it had a good community feel, like my home town. I could see the growth that was about to happen and I wanted to be a part of that. My brother told me about this building which had been vacant for four years. I thought the space was amazing. I liked the location, the heritage building and the Old City Quarter as a destination.  I wanted to surround myself with quality shops.

DNBIA: What are your hours of operation?
DAVID: 11 to 5, Monday to Saturday and by appointment.

DNBIA: What motivated you to start your business?
DAVID: Prior to school I wanted to travel and wanted my own store. I started with one piece; I would bring it back from my travels, finish it and sell it. I like quality and things that last. I am a minimalist, so my product had to have a low impact on the environment.

DNBIA: What are your future plans for the business?
DAVID: To continue to grow and expand my selling markets; whether it is through art galleries, etc. We ship pieces all over, quite a lot go to Vancouver. I just sent a bench to Winnipeg which my dad delivered for me, as he just happened to be taking a trip that way. We have an online catalog that people can order from and I also will custom design pieces for people.

DNBIA: Where is your studio?
DAVID: Here in the store, however, everything is produced in Indonesia. I will do the drawings here and then send it to the individual craftsmen that I work with there and have the items shipped to Canada. The outfit is totally non-factory.  I do all the finishing work on site, including the oil and sanding of each final piece. We are more than a retail store because we do all our own production. We will take a piece and tweak it and add your taste and touches, such as specifying the joinery. We have the largest selection of teak product in North America. We can do anything from small boat work to kitchen cabinets; anything you can think of.

DNBIA: Can you give us a short description of your business?
DAVID: We are a small, dedicated, family-run business that produces only quality teak furniture.

DNBIA: Do you work with any other wood products?

DAVID: No, we like teak because it is an investment piece. It still has value twenty years later and it even increases in value. Our product originates in Indonesia and then is finished on-site. We bring in two shipments a year, which is delivered by barge and it takes 30 days by sea. It is a big investment as I own the entire inventory. Customers don’t have to wait. Teak is known for its high oil content. It has been used for centuries on boats. Our furniture will last 50 to 100 years outside. No staining is required, just a natural finish. I use mineral oil, no petroleum products. It’s like getting stone wet – it just enhances its natural colour and it brings warmth into every home.

DNBIA: Is it environmentally sustainable?
DAVID: All of the teak I get from Indonesia is planation teak. This means they only harvest so many trees per year and there are strict regulations to ensure the future of the plantations. They are one of the only countries that maintain their plantations.

DNBIA: Did you always want to be a furniture builder?
DAVID: Originally I was an artist doing drawings and paintings, but when I went to Malaspina College I took Interior Design and one of the classes was furniture design. I spent four years traveling to Australia, New Zealand  and then I lived in Indonesia; I would come back for a couple of months and make money as a tree planter, and then I would return to my travels and it was when I was Indonesia that I met my beautiful wife and discovered the teak industry.  My store reflects the beliefs that I have and it brought me to my wife and family.

DNBIA: What is it about your business that makes you the most proud?
DAVID: I think it is the longevity of our product. It is something that you want to touch; you can even see the quality in the pictures in our online catalog.

DNBIA: What would a customer not know about you?
DAVID: I have done a lot of volunteering to stimulate business improvements in this area. My strongest beliefs are around working with your community and improving it. I live and work downtown and I think it’s good because it reduces travel time and lets me enjoy my life by being able to spend more time with my family. As much as I can, I try to support downtown businesses and shop locally. I try to avoid big box stores, I understand that everyone wants a deal, but what is the cost to the people doing the work? As with life, I treat others the way I like to be treated, to have a fair solution.

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