Matt Oppenheim is founder of Matthews Chair Co. in Collierville, Tenn.
American Dream Thrives At Matthews Chair Co.
Collierville, Tenn.—Matt Oppenheim is living the American dream. As a young up and coming executive in the corporate world he decided to break loose and start his own company.
“While I was working in the insurance industry I built a deck on my house,” said Oppenheim, founder of Matthews Chair Co. “I had some lumber left over, so I decided to build a few Adirondack chairs. My friends and family loved them and encouraged me to start doing this for a living.”
Oppenheim spent over a year strategizing a plan for his American dream, and he began sketching different styles of Adirondack furniture.
“I have always had a passion for wood working and I’m a business person at heart, so I thought I would combine the two,” he said.
Thus began the start of Matthews Chair Co., located in a suburb of Memphis, Tenn.
Like the start of any company, there was a lot of trial and error.
“We shipped our first order and when the customer received the chairs, they were not intact,” Oppenheim stated. “We have definitely learned how to pack and ship our products ever since. It is all about making the customer happy.”
Hugo Lagos pieces an Adirondack chair at the company’s facility.
When the company started in early 2006, just three products were manufactured, and today that number has climbed to 20.
Matthews manufactures a complete line of Adirondack chairs and accessories including loveseats, tables and rocking chairs. In 2007, the company’s expansion plans included swings, balcony chairs and potting tables to its growing product line.
“We build high quality, affordable Adirondack furniture with its own unique style,” Oppenheim said.
The backbone of the product line is the Adirondack chair–such a simple design, yet so expressive. There are few things in modern day Americana that express the concept of relaxation as well as the Adirondack chair. For something that started in the mountains, it found its way to the beach rather quickly. Today, Adirondacks can virtually be found in every city, lake, beach and back yard in the country.
Matthews manufactures a complete line of Adirondack chairs and accessories including loveseats, tables and rocking chairs. This year, the company’s product line expansion included swings, balcony chairs and potting tables to its growing product line.
The classic chair—the company’s bestseller—has a vintage look reminiscent of styles dating back to the 1940s and ‘50s. It features slanted front legs and a five-slat shell-style back with wide middle slot.
“We utilize select Cypress,” Oppenheim said. “Cypress is the standard for outdoor use, due to its excellent decay and insect resistance. Cypress is easily workable and accepts stains and paints exceptionally well. Occasionally, a customer requests a different species, like Redwood, and we will accommodate them.”
Throughout the year, Oppenheim buys kiln-dried and surfaced Cypress in 10,000 board foot increments. It arrives in dimensional 3.5 to 5.5-inches wide and 13/16 thick.
“Basically, it is ready to go when it gets to our facility,” he said. “We use a template-routing method for the legs, and an arc jig on the band saw to cut the back slats.”
Once the parts are cut they are assembled into the four sub-components—back, seat, arms and legs. These are sent to the spray booth for paint or stain.
Templates are used as a routing method for the legs, and an arc jig on the band saw is used to cut the back slats.
“We believe that what goes on top of your chair is equally as important as the care that goes into your chair,” Oppenheim said. “We use only the finest paints and stains available. Our paints are a high gloss acrylic latex specifically designed for outdoor use. Not only will our paints withstand the elements, they will withstand the rigors of regular use and contact without peeling or flaking. Our semi-transparent waterseals provide UV, moisture and mildew prevention, while still allowing the natural beauty of the wood grain to be seen.”
Another popular finish is collegiate colors. It is not a licensed product, so logos are not included.
All products are manufactured, finished and shipped in a portion of a 150,000-square-foot warehouse sitting not far off Collierville’s historic town square. Being located near Memphis, America’s distribution hub, means lower freight costs for customers. The craftsmen at Matthews Chair Co. build approximately 400 pieces of furniture monthly.
To market his chairs Oppenheim showcases his products at various furniture shows around the country.
Florindo Villarreal uses a sander on the templates used for the Adirondack chairs.
“I set up a booth at the furniture markets,” he said. “I sell them to dealers, mainly in the Southeast and Midwest.”
His main customers are outdoor furniture stores and garden centers.
However, his chairs have found their way into Maine and as far away as England, where he sent his hot pink and bold blue versions to see how they adapted to the weather. The website, www.matthewschair.com, is also fast becoming a venue to market the chairs.
“We pride ourselves on producing a product that is 100 percent American-made,” he said. “Our goal is to be the premier supplier of Adirondack furniture for retailers throughout the South and Midwest.”