This shop has ‘MoFlow’

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The Joinery in Portland, Ore., has been a fixture in the custom furniture business in the Pacific Northwest for nearly 25 years. Featuring custom and stock hand-made furniture — no CNC here — the 35-person shop has a reputation for producing a quality product, often from sustainable domestic woods.

Owner Marc Gaudin is the man behind The Joinery, equipped with a razor-sharp business sense and a keen eye for design. He has seen his shop go through the best of times and some difficult times, all while continuing to design and build furniture representing a variety of styles for his upper middle-class clientele. The Joinery has a reputation for producing affordable and quality solid-wood furniture, with pieces such as table tops as thick as 4".

Owner: Marc Gaudin
Location: Portland, Ore.
Building: 13,000-sq.-ft. shop; 6,000-sq.-ft. showroom
Professional experience: more than 25 years
Employees: 35
Known for: hand-made solid furniture
Business growth: “It wasn’t like I just fell into it. I didn’t plan on thinking, when I first started, that we’d have 35 employees. But I was thinking that I want to build top-of-the-line; I want to give the best customer service we possibly can; I want to be wise with my investments; I’m not willing to go in debt and, as orders grow, I’ll add people.”
Achieving success: “I’m a strong believer that regardless of what you are doing, you don’t reach optimum. I don’t care what it is.”

You won’t find Gaudin posing anywhere as the poster boy for a CNC manufacturer. He prides himself on the “heirloom-quality, solid-wood, residential and commercial furniture” that is hand-produced in his shop.

“CNC has never entered the picture,” he says. “It’s debatable. The thing to me is what would be the first step we might consider if we’re even thinking about that? Some days you go, ‘Wow, the CNC would be perfect for this.’ You know, our chair scoops, we send them out to be done by CNC. And there have been some other parts; it’s cost effective. But to have a $150,000 machine and having someone getting lost on how to run it, then they’re sick and everything that goes along with that. I’ve strayed away from that.”

Big Sky roots
Gaudin was raised on a ranch in Montana and worked with his hands at an early age. His business prowess can be traced back to running a chicken business as a young kid, ordering supplies and having his own checkbook.

In high school, he worked at a small furniture shop called Purdue Woodworks, which has since grown into a large business. He alternated between going to college and working in cabinet shops before he graduated from the University of Montana with a bachelor’s degree in geography and a minor in photography. He spent his summers working for the U.S. Forest Service before moving to Portland in 1982, where he started his own furniture restoration business.

“Those first days, I sold my stuff on a street corner. I’d buy antiques, refinish and repair them,” he recalls. “I had a growing business for probably two years, then somebody came along and wanted to buy the business and I sold it to him. I had a 500- to 600-sq.-ft. shop; it was mostly restorations. I wasn’t building at all.”

He strayed away from woodworking for a few years when he worked for a company that calibrated balances and scales, receiving training in Germany and working in six states. He went out on his own, doing the same type of work, before returning to woodworking.