The owners of Hardwood & Honey Kristina Zebley and her husband Joe. (Photo courtesy of Kristina Zebley)

Q&A: Upcycling furniture is making its mark in Newberry

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Upcycling furniture stores are starting to open across north central Florida and especially in more metropolitan areas like Tampa and Jacksonville.

Hardwood & Honey, a Newberry upcycling furniture store, is addressing a desire for this style of home furnishings in smaller cities in the region, according to customers.

A 2020 article in Forbes suggested that upcycling has been an unsuccessful style in the past due to the trend being out of necessity or from a lack of materials. Historically, refurbishing furniture has not been out of a sustainable or aesthetic spirit. Now, there is a luxury flair to refinishing furniture, representing a new take on the style.

WUFT sat down with Hardwood & Honey owner Kristina Zebley, 33, to ask about the work that goes into refurbishing old furniture. She talked about her and her husband’s initial struggles of owning a shop, the rewards of the store and how she was able to make it her full-time job. Hardwood & Honey repurposes furniture in a farmhouse, boho and shabby chic style.

The Q&A is edited for clarity.

Q: How did Hardwood & Honey come to establish itself through a pandemic in a small town?

A: Oddly enough, the pandemic had nothing to do with starting this business. I used to be a nurse and my husband, Joe, 36, traveled often for work. After feeling like I mastered being a mom to our three children, I wanted to mask a lull in my life. We had extra cabinets from a remodel that had been done in our home. So, I built my husband an outdoor kitchen and our friends absolutely raved about it.

In July 2020, I decided to refinish an end table and sell it on Facebook. Our business took off from there, and I started doing custom pieces for people through our page. Despite our success we paused sales from January to May 2021. We wanted to save up through our traditional careers and buy land in Newberry. Once we did this, we reopened orders in July.

It has been a shade over a month since our storefront has been open, and the positive response has been overwhelming. We are no longer doing custom orders with the volume of sales from having a storefront. Now it is my husband and I full-time job.

Q: How many pieces a week on average do you repurpose?

A: On average nine pieces of furniture a week, but we never do less than three. We can sell up to 15 pieces in a week.

In a lot of ways, it is easier to not take custom orders. I can give a new life to vintage furniture with my own artistic eye. I built the aesthetic around what the store is today so, I know what our customers like and what is going to sell. If anything, we sell more now than when we were just online with custom orders. It takes too much time to make custom pieces. If we ever got really slow I would go back customs, but right now we are busy.

Q: You had mentioned to me that you started as a vendor, and now you have vendors in your store. Could you explain what that means?

A: Before opening our own store, we would only sell in person at markets. Markets are places where a bunch of small businesses can sell their products. When you go to one of these markets to sell you are considered the vendor. We knew we would want to have vendors of other small businesses in our store as soon as we opened. We wanted to give chances to people like us because if no one let us be a vendor we might not have a successful business today.

In Hardwood & Honey we have over 13 vendors that sell their products from our store. Anywhere from local artists to candle makers sell out of our store.

We try to minimize new furniture to keep the integrity of the store, but I allow a few pieces of brand-new furniture to keep up with our demand.

Q: Do you think you are sustaining a need for this trend in furniture at your location in north central Florida?

A: Yes. I think we have a loyal customer base, and the town has been so supportive of us. We would not be able to pursue this full-time without all the outpour of love and appreciation for our business. We value putting quality items in our store at reasonable prices.

We have upcycled furniture, home décor and home furnishings that are unique to our store. If I would not put it in my house, I would not put it in my store. Hardwood & Honey is family run and our position in north central Florida has allowed us to stay open. People travel from all over the state to come to us. One of our vendors drives almost two hours, sometimes multiple times per week, to sell out of our store. She says it is the fastest her products have ever sold.

Q: Are there any special additional aspects of the store now that you are not solely based at markets and online?

A: We want the opportunity to give back to our community. Everyone has been so supportive and amazing. So, we will be launching a Giving Card program next month. We have not worked out the final details, but we plan to give gas and grocery store gifts cards to local families in need.

We also ran a raffle at our last store event where donations put customers in the running to win a refinished white cabinet. A portion of the proceeds benefited children at Newberry Elementary School.

About Ashley Weinstein

Ashley is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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