Asher Benjamin Studio, a 25-year-old case goods resource whose key customers include Crate & Barrel, is making its debut here this week in an 1,800-square-foot space at 320 South Wrenn St.
Asher Benjamin, owned by Peter and Meg Strattner, designs and sources bedroom, dining and occasional furniture in ash and wormy maple solids and veneers, as well as American cherry.
The company’s first products drew upon clean American Shaker designs in fresh, updated looks. Retailers like Crate & Barrel used those pieces to popularize clean transitional designs, helping inspire the “lifestyle” craze that swept the furniture industry a few years ago.
New collections here update design references from Hepplewhite to Art Deco. Beds retail from $1,199 to $2,499, and dining tables from $1,299 to $1,599.
Along with its work for Crate & Barrel, Asher Benjamin Studio also teamed with Herman Miller for a home office group called TD Collection, which won first place in its category at NeoCon’s design competition.
The company has shown a limited selection of product for several markets at Lee Inds., and its experience there led to networking and marketing opportunities that inspired Asher Benjamin Studio to open its own showroom.
In the mid-1990s, ABS ceased manufacturing and switched to sourcing in order to avoid capacity limitations on growth. Over the past seven years, the company has developed sourcing for its exclusive designs in seven plants, mostly in Canada, with one in China.
“The Strattners recognized many factories in North America had excess capacity, and were well suited to their particular requirements,” said Patrick Bowe, sales manager.
He declined to name the plants, but said they had the workers, machinery and capital to support ABS’s growth.
“We bring product in from small, family-owned and –operated factories, and perform the quality control, finishing, packing and shipping consolidation ourselves in a single facility,” Bowe said. “This allows us to serve large retailers with the exclusive product they need, and also serve smaller accounts with ‘open’ programs from stock.”
The Canadian sourcing also gives ABS more control and better response times, he said.
“Our cost is driven more by materials than labor, so China doesn’t hold a distinct advantage for us, and will probably hold even less as labor costs there increase, and as their currency inevitably begins to float,” Bowe said. “Currency and labor costs in Canada have been relatively stable for decades. Our sourcing in North America enables us to communicate quickly and accurately, and to make changes and corrections in a timely manner. Shipping logistics are also simple and predictable.”
Why come to High Point now?
“No single event or circumstance led us to High Point,” Bowe said. “We had focused for decades on working with Crate & Barrel, and customers came to us. The new manufacturing model gives us the capacity to expand beyond our current market.”