Today, we have the pleasure of interviewing Robert Friedman, President of Avina Seating and Custom Furniture.
Please tell us about your company, ‘Avina Seating and Custom Furniture.’
We are the leading furniture manufacturer and provide customers with a fancy, comfortable, and creative seating and furniture range. When Hotels, Ballrooms, Wedding Halls, and Country Clubs need chairs, they call me.
That’s great! Please share your journey of how you got into Hospitality Seating.
On a regular day, I am hustling selling furniture to nursing homes. The most famous product we sell is an aluminum wood grain chair. Aluminum wood grain is a fancy name for faux wood. The chair is really neat as it has all the benefits of aluminum, such as lightweight. It won’t wobble like wood chairs tend to do after a couple of years, and it is very durable. On top of all that, it has a beautiful wood look. One day a nursing facility called me up. They saw a picture of the chair. They were really impressed. They told me on the phone that they wanted to see an actual sample of the chair. I was lucky that the facility was in the tri-state, so it wouldn’t be a problem sticking a chair in my Nissan Centra and driving there. The only issue was that the chair sample I had sitting in my office had been at a different nursing facility. So I called the chair manufacturer and asked him if he had any extra laying around his warehouse. I was in luck; he had a couple of open boxes of chairs, and I was free to come to pick some up. So I got into the car and drove to Harrison, N.J., where the chair manufacturer has his warehouse.
I arrived at the warehouse, and boy was I impressed. I did not know that there are so many different kinds of chairs. A typical Chiavari chair can come in multiple models. There were pallets of chairs headed to casinos, chairs for hotels, chairs for ballrooms, chairs for country clubs all on the way out. Then the owner pulled me aside and showed me 4000 chairs that were coming in. Now why in the world was a chair manufacturer getting a delivery of 4000 chairs. The answer was there was a casino that ordered 4000 chairs and refused delivery because they changed the paint color of the building. The owner told me that the loss of revenue from a custom-made chair was not such a big deal. The bigger issue was all these casino chairs taking up storage in his building. The owner tells me, Hey, I know this is not really your business line, but maybe you know someone that would be interested in these chairs. The chairs had a flex back with real high-end vinyl, and he was willing to give it at a really good price. I figured I would try my luck; I got someone to hang up signs in 100 shuls in Lakewood. One-time deal! Great for shuls and banquet halls, the sign screamed. My first call was from someone who wanted them for his dining room. I wasn’t expecting a chair order of only 10 pieces, but the manufacturer was nice, packed it in a van, and sent 10 chairs down the Garden State Parkway. Next, I got a call from a young man. He was building a yeshiva. He needed chairs for his new building. He asked me if I can go meet the interior decorator and show her the chair. The interior decorator told me the colors do not match at all but asked me if I can custom make a black stack chair. Called the manufacturer. He gave me a good price, and boom, 150 chairs coming down the Garden State Parkway. Someone else gave my name to a banquet hall in New Jersey. The owner of the banquet hall had another wedding hall on the other side of town. He had Chiavari chairs in the old hall and wanted to be able to swap the chairs between the two wedding halls. So the Chiavari chair we custom made for him would have to be the exact as was in the first wedding hall. No problem, I was told. We took his old Chiavari chair, sent it overseas, and made 250 pieces of the exact same chair. Then I decided this may be fun. I bought the domain name avinaseating.com and as we say, Friends, the rest is history.
What are the strategies that helped you become successful in your journey?
I have never considered myself too important to ask for business. I am constantly cold calling businesses to ask if they need chairs.
Any message for our readers.
Never believe conventional wisdom. Everyone saw what Covid was doing to the hospitality and restaurant industry and assumed that none of these businesses were looking for chairs. I saw an opportunity as I had less competition.
Fantastic! So tell us, how can people find out more about you?
Don’t forget to check out my website. I am also available for motivational podcast interviews by calling 908-839-6360.
Thank you so much for giving us your precious time! We wish you the best for your journey ahead!