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Asheville Wooden Chairmaker Part of NC Contingent Looking For Gold In Dubai

Matt Peiken | BPR News

From his warehouse in West Asheville, Brian Boggs designs and builds wooden chairs with tools and machines you just can’t find at a Home Depot.

Every carving tool that fits in your hand and every machine to cut and shape boards, Boggs built them himself.

“The way it saws makes a huge difference in how you work the material,” Boggs said. “It gives us an edge that most woodworkers just don’t have.”

Up close, the contraptions look like high school shop class projects. But they’re at the center of an operation employing seven people, plus Boggs’ wife, and preparing for the Dubai Hotel Show, in the United Arab Emirates.

In addition to hoteliers in Dubai, Boggs expects to meet buyers from Asia, Russia and Europe. It’s a big step for Brian Boggs Chairmakers, and for Boggs, who has crafted high-end wooden chairs for more than 30 years.

“This is a show we’ve heard can be just killer,” he said. “It would be fun to be part of that energy.”

The is Boggs’ first trip to the Dubai Hotel Show, one of six concurrent shows under the umbrella of the Middle East Design and Hospitality Week. Boggs’ business is one of four from North Carolina attending with the support of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

“This is a very productive market for the companies we take,” said Liz Isley, an international trade manager with the Economic Development Partnership, based in High Point.

“In the Middle East, it’s all about relationships and going several times to meet with companies and potential partners, and they want to see you back a few times before they bite the bullet,” Isley said. “Exporting is very difficult and there has to be some type of commitment on the business side to be productive in the market.”

Boggs isn’t expecting a silver bullet, but for a company whose lowest-priced dining chairs sell for $1,900, Dubai is a tantalizing market.

“There are hotels there spending money on products with a different sense of what they can afford,” he said. “Hotels here are just not going to be interested in products at our price point, for the most part, although the models on the shelf here are for pieces we’re building for the Biltmore Hilton.”

It may seem as if Boggs is only seeing green in Dubai, but he long ago committed to catering to a specific taste within a tightly defined marketplace.

Credit Matt Peiken | BPR News
Brian Boggs shows the workings of one of the machines he designed and built himself.

“Because we’re a fairly high-end product, we’re mostly dealing with the 1 or 2 percent of the population, and they don’t buy furniture every year -- they don’t buy furniture very often at all,” he said. “So we have to find that tiny percent of the 1 or 2 percent that likes our price range and likes our style.”

Still, Boggs he said he adopted a more holistic ethic and mission to his business after a confluence of events -- the recession of 2007, his own divorce and a move from Eastern Kentucky back to Asheville, where was raised.

“The spirit of the company, our values and mission, is clearly stated as doing work at a level that actually raises consciousness in the way we run our business, in the way we harvest and care for the materials, in the way we relate to our customers,” he said. “I was not company-conscious before. I was just a woodworker selling stuff.”


Matt Peiken, BPR’s first full-time arts journalist, has spent his entire career covering arts and culture.
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