The start of 'something fantastic' - Valuing the middleman

Article Index
The start of 'something fantastic'
The Tulsa experiment
Valuing the middleman
On the brink
All Pages

Valuing the middleman
In New York, Oklahoma and now Rhode Island, the talented woodworker has always done his utmost to stay in close contact with his best clients, almost all of whom are in New York. He has also maintained a strong relationship with Burden.

"Since I've been out on my own, I've done reproductions for them like copying chairs and some restoration. But it's very selective; only referrals.

"Early on, I built pieces on spec, just to have show pieces. You have to able to show people because the work does the talking. I've had some good success selling my work through the galleries of three different antiques dealers in New York, including Jonathan's, the Gerald Bland Gallery and the Philip Colleck Gallery."

Though furniture makers have been known to resent the financial arrangement that accompanies showing their work in galleries, Warlick has a contrarian outlook. Without the interior designers and gallery owners, he doesn't feel he would be able to reach the high-end clientele he constantly seeks out. Their value to his business can't be underestimated.

"That's the way the very high-end clientele buys fine furniture," he explains. "They don't go out and shop for themselves. They listen to their interior designer or they're familiar with a dealer. So they go to these intermediaries, but these people work for their money. This clientele expects a lot of service.

"I got a job a couple of years ago reproducing some Chippendale chairs for a woman through Philip Colleck. We talked about the job, it all looked good, we were just waiting for the deposit but it wasn't coming. So I called my interior decorator who was saying the woman came in the week before and they had a good meeting. She said, 'I had her over for dinner the other day and I think she'll be cutting us a check pretty soon.' There's that much effort to have some chairs made but that's the way they have to do business. They're kind of friends with these people."

Warlick is trying to develop a new market for contemporary pieces with the New York dealers. But because they usually sell only antiques, it hasn't been easy. However, he is quick to point out that working with the New York connection is a necessary part of his business, and is much more than what some makers perceive as working with some needless middlemen.

On the brink
Warlick works with both veneer and hardwoods. He was fortunate to indirectly purchase a vintage stock of veneer from a New York company that sold off its inventory. Actually, a friend of his bought the veneer from Frederick Victoria & Son, but was getting divorced. The friend would only sell the entire stock of veneer or there was no deal. So, Warlick bought it all. Hardwoods in his shop come mainly from Downes & Reader Hardwood Co. in Stoughton, Mass., and Irion Lumber Co. in Wellsboro, Pa.