Growing Pains Lead to Success

With some lessons learned the hard way, Seabrook Classics quickly got up-to-speed in designing, building and selling distinctive furniture.

By Hannah Miller

     
Seabrook Classics Furniture

Seabrook, SC

Year Founded: 1997

Employees: 25

Shop Size: 15,000 square feet

FYI: Seabrook uses a lot of heart pine for its “low country”-style furniture. The wood must be air-dried for an entire year before fabrication.

 
   
     

The lessons came hard and fast five years ago when Greg and Harriett Bosiack left the fast-paced life of metropolitan Washington, DC, to become small-town furnituremakers. Lessons like, “Wood never stops moving and has a life of its own,” says Greg Bosiack.

That truth hadn’t fully sunk in for Bosiack before, even though his woodworking hobby was one of the things that led him to leave his CFO job with a communications company and, with his wife Harriett, start Seabrook Classics Furniture in Seabrook, SC. But after some early problems with cracking, Bosiack says he quickly discovered the answer: “Make sure it’s all sealed and stable before it goes out the door.”

Also in the beginning, some pieces arrived at the customer’s home scratched. For “lesson two,” Seabrook called upon its packing materials supplier, Coastal Corrugated of Savannah, GA, for advice. The result, says Bosiack, “Now we use foam wrap, bubble wrap and a double-wall box. It’s expensive,” he adds, “but getting it to its destination without being scratched is critical.”

Yet another lesson was realizing furniture designs’ vulnerability to knockoffs. The Bosiacks had their first business “breakthrough” when they brought pieces with shuttered cabinet doors, a major design element of their coastal cottage look, to the 1999 International Home Furnishings Show in High Point. It had taken them some three years to perfect their design, Bosiack says. “We hadn’t seen shutters anywhere. We sort of invented them. It was a huge hit.” Today, he adds, shutters are everywhere.

     
 
This entertainment armoire with two sets of doors is Seabrook’s best-selling model. This example features pine with seagrass doors.  
     

In addition to these “lessons,” there were other challenges as the company worked to establish itself. The Bosiacks had to find suppliers and a trucking company willing to come to Seabrook, a small community 15 miles from Beaufort on the South Carolina coast.

“We are out of the furniture mainstream,” Bosiack says. “Suppliers don’t always want to come down here.” Eventually, they established a long-term relationship with R&L Trucking, which has a terminal nearby.

Lessons learned, the company grows

What helped Seabrook grow during the past five years to its present $1.5 million in annual sales, Bosiack says, is the distinctive, frequently-updated style of its furniture, an emphasis on quality and its customization services. The latter is a big selling point with the 1,500 interior designers around the country who make up much of the company’s customer base.

“Designers are always trying to work with a specific space,” he says. “Since we are building everything (from scratch), it allows us to customize the item.” Seabrook also will alter its designs, or come up with completely new ones, to fit a customer’s color scheme, room size or whims.

Seabrook bench-builds all its pieces to order and makes all its components, including moulding. Greg Bosiack designs the pieces — dining, bedroom, home office/entertainment and occasional pieces — and Harriett markets them.

“Our best-selling item of all time is this big shuttered entertainment center,” Greg Bosiack says.

Several large furniture retailers, including Norwalk Furniture and Malouf Furniture, are among the customers. The company also sells through home furnishings catalogues and directly to individuals.

In choosing their signature furniture style, the Bosiacks say they looked carefully at their potential clients. “We realized that there were a lot of baby boomers reaching retirement age and moving to the beach. We get a lot of people changing everything, taking all their dark furniture and leaving it to their kids,” Greg Bosiack says. They gravitate, he adds, to furniture that is light and bright, to white and yellow and to shutters. “They want something less formal, stuffy. They just want to relax.”

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