More than 25 years ago, when Chris Montrone of Gig Harbor was still in high school, he built his first piece of furniture, a coffee table with purple heart inlays, made from reclaimed oak.
Little did Montrone know at the time that custom furniture construction would become his life’s work.
“It is nothing special,” Montrone said modestly of that first table. “But it has held up impeccably all of these years.”
Today, Montrone, 43, is founder and owner of Gig Harbor-based Montrone Handcrafted Furniture, a custom home furnishings company that is off Pioneer Way in downtown Gig Harbor.
Montrone moved to Gig Harbor from Colorado three years ago when a business opportunity in Washington was presented to his wife, Emily Daumler, 40. Before moving to the Pacific Northwest, Montrone ran a home remodeling company for 15 years.
Woodworking is a skill that runs in the family, Montrone said, explaining that both his father and grandfather were also woodworkers.
After relocating to the Northwest, Montrone was contemplating his next professional move when he received a furniture order from his wife, who was frustrated by being unable to find the perfect kitchen table for their new home. In relatively short order, Montrone constructed a kitchen table out of reclaimed barn wood. When his wife saw the completed project, she suggested Montrone try selling his furniture for profit.
Intrigued by the idea, but not expecting much, Montrone posted an online ad for his furniture on Craigslist. To his surprise, Montrone sold a piece right away, and a new career was launched.
Montrone constructs all types of furniture at affordable prices. Using a unique pricing model, customers first tell Montrone exactly how much they wish to spend, then he constructs furniture while staying within the prescribed budget.
Where most people see trash, Chris Montrone envisions finished products.
In terms of materials Montrone uses, customers can supply their own wood. Or, Montrone can acquire suitable resources by reclaiming wood from old buildings or materials that have been discarded. Where most people see trash, Montrone envisions finished products.
Montrone does not advertise, which means customers learn about his business through word of mouth. Over the last three years, Montrone has sold furniture across Washington and beyond, including orders from Oregon and as far away as Mexico.
One local customer, Windy Payne, owner of the business For the Love of Spice on Harborview Drive in downtown Gig Harbor, said she initially commissioned Montrone to build a barn door for her shop.
After seeing Montrone’s work, though, Payne asked him to build several displays, one of which was a bar made out of a wine barrel.
Payne said she could not find any barrels that had the right dimensions. But Montrone solved the problem by constructing a bar that looks like a wine barrel, even adding shelves and wine glass holders on the back.
“Having someone like Chris who can customize your furniture really pays off,” said Payne. “He is very talented and easy to work with.”
While custom furnishings are not uncommon in the Northwest, Montrone’s work stands out because his furniture is made of reclaimed materials that tend to have sentimental value.
I will always do this. Even if my store was not successful, I would go back to doing it from my workshop.
Chris Montrone, owner of Montrone Handcrafted Furniture
Customers can visit Montrone Handcrafted Furniture, open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, at 3208 Tarabochia St. in Gig Harbor. Those interested can also visit montronehandcraftedfurniture.com on the web.
Montrone, who said he loves building custom pieces and seeing customer reactions, added that he cannot picture himself doing anything else.
“I will always do this. Even if my store was not successful, I would go back to doing it from my workshop,” said Montrone. “I would be happy doing that for the rest of my life.”
Michelle McGrath is a freelance writer based in Parkland and a member of MediaLab at Pacific Lutheran University. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.