Sometimes, a small request leads to big opportunities.
In February, a Richmond designer who often partners with H.J. Holtz & Son asked Carpentry Division Manager Jeff Nonnemacker if someone at the company could build, from scratch, an open end table with shelves, using a photo for guidance.
The designer’s client had a specific need, and the table the client had found was on back order – with a delivery date months in the future. Knowing of the Holtz carpentry team’s ability to repair and replace interior woodwork, the designer wondered if the table could be made in-house.
Nonnemacker thought so. He turned to Josh Hastings, a new co-worker who had been at the company from 2005-2014 – before Nonnemacker’s tenure began – but left to focus on custom, interior jobs, which Holtz & Son wasn’t doing then. Hastings returned to Holtz & Son in January, after his previous employer closed his business.
Hastings made the table, to the designer’s specifications, and handed it over.
It was a game-changing moment for Nonnemacker.
“As soon as I saw Josh’s skill, I ran to Rick [Holtz, company president], and said ‘We really need that new table saw now,’” Nonnemacker says, noting there had been ongoing discussions about when it would become necessary to add a saw to the carpentry division.
The Holtz carpentry team occupies its own building on the multiple-lot campus the company owns in Richmond’s bustling Scott’s Addition neighborhood. Inside the shop, there are multiple work benches, shelves holding wood of all shapes and sizes, and hooks for tools, some of which date to Rick Holtz’s grandfather, who founded the company. “We’re still using them,” Nonnemacker laughs.
Because of an increase in carpentry work over the last five years – Nonnemacker estimates a 50%-75% surge in that time – the company has been adding staff and equipment to accommodate larger jobs. The table project became a tipping point, as it showed another area where a larger saw would be useful.
The company located a 3’x7’ table saw from a Northern Virginia seller, and Hastings built an extended table to connect to the saw so a whole sheet of plywood – usually 4’x8’ – can be fed through in a single motion, with only one person involved. A sophisticated internal sensor detects when anything that conducts electricity, such as human skin, comes into contact with the blade. If contact occurs, the saw stops immediately and drops below the surface of the table.
“The table allows me to do everything by myself,” Hastings says. “I don’t need an extra hand and I get a more precise cut because the board has support as it’s being fed through.”
Nonnemacker says the new saw means the company doesn’t have to rely on wood shops for millwork, such as molding and trim, that customers routinely need. “Now we’re competitive with the skills we have and the tools we’re using,” he says. “Given the economy, it’s good for us and the client.”
Following the original end table, Hastings built two coffee tables from “inspiration” photos – one for a designer, and one for that designer’s client who saw a photo and wanted one of her own. Hastings also built wooden plant stands for the H.J. Holtz & Son office, to move pots out of reach from a new member of the team. “Rick’s puppy was eating the mulch, so we’re getting the plants up higher,” Hastings laughs.
All laughs aside, Hastings is happy to be back with the company. “My wife makes fun of me because I’m always watching YouTube videos to learn new woodworking skills, but this is the kind of work I want to be doing,” he says. “I understand this is a new endeavor for the company, and it will take time to develop, but we’re going in the direction where I want to be.”
Nonnemacker says he’s also pleased with the new venture, christened as Holtz Built Furniture. “So far, we’ve had a great response,” he says. “Even within the company, I’m kind of bragging about it. And I want to learn from Josh; that’s what carpenters do.”