Dave Metthe of M&M Furniture Restoration has been working with wood for the past 25 years, 10 of which at 183 Water Street. Despite no sign out front and no advertising, Metthe’s attention to detail and reputation for fair pricing are well known by those who appreciate quality restoration craftsmanship of “old” furniture. From painting furniture to turning pianos into bars, Metthe has done it all, always keeping up on the latest trends. After graduating from Warren High School, Metthe attended Roger Williams University at night for business management. By day, he worked for now-closed Caldor department stores doing everything from remodeling to management. The work burnt him out. A woodworking show reignited a passion for building fostered when he was young, and the rest is history. Metthe credits his wife Laurie who had her then-busy secretarial business to support them during his career change. The popularity of older furniture has Metthe working seven days a week sometimes – his customers know that the wait is well worth it.
Building Blocks: When I was a kid I would go over and see my uncle, a carpenter, and ask him, “got any extra wood?” so I could build little things. While I was at Caldor, I went to a woodworking show in Springfield and learned about the Worcester Center for Crafts. I originally attended to make furniture but then I got friendly with the guy running the restoration department and things flourished from there. I can still make furniture.
Cash Cow: When I started doing this work, a lot of people said you can’t make money doing it. But I always tried to diversify; I have expertise in veneer, I can make furniture, or I could have gone the gift and production business route. I have tons of my own furniture here in the shop I could work on and sell if I had more time. There are lots of ways to make an income. Restoration is a cash cow, especially in a down economy.
Cherished Treasures: People have heirlooms; some are really nice and some are a little questionable. I will treat people’s furniture basically like it’s mine. And I will tell them straight out if I don’t think it’s correct [going to look good] or worth it. The oldest piece I have in the shop is a customer’s chair from the 1600s.
The Real Deal: To me, it’s almost better to go out and buy a piece of old furniture. It doesn’t have to be an antique, per se, but older furniture is built so much better than any kind of furniture being made today. You can spend a ton of money on new furniture and it has particle board, staples, no joinery, just butt joints; it’s not something that’s going to last.
Old is New: The current trend is that everyone wants things painted. They want to get away from the “old grandma”-looking types of furniture and add mirrors, or turn Victrolas and pianos into bars. The shabby chic style is still popular, so the more beat up it is the better.
Table Triumph: Right before COVID, I got a job from Brown University to refinish 70 dining tables, which were all Eastern Butcher Block tables. They varied in size from eight to 10 feet long, made of solid oak. I would pick up four tables at a time. It took me months, but it got me through COVID. Someone gave Brown my name, but to this day I don’t know who it was.
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