SHAFTSBURY — Dave Herzfeld lives near his workplace and he spends about 80 hours a week working in his shop at Herzfeld Studios. He said he doesn’t consider the length of his workweek remarkable because he doesn’t watch the clock and most days seem to go by pretty quickly.
“I love it. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Herzfeld said on Memorial Day afternoon, as he applied a whey-based floor finish to the doors of cabinets from a custom kitchen he had designed and built, with the material destined for a house in Stratton.
“It’s all white oak,” he says. “I built everything. All cabinets, all doors, all drawers – everything.
Herzfeld, who just turned 60, opened his studio at 4929 Historic Route 7A in 1992. He credited his ability to produce many types of products with keeping him in business for three decades while maintaining a high standard interest in his work.
“I’m a furniture maker,” he says. “I am a cabinetmaker. I’m also an artist, so I make art and sculpt things. Signs too.
The Herzfeld Studios road sign – which faces northbound and southbound travelers and features a red fox against a green forest backdrop and below a moon disc representing the man in the moon – was sculpted and painted by the owner.
Herzfeld said his 85-year-old father still works full-time as a salesman.
“I think I have his blood in me when it comes to work,” Herzfeld said. “And my mother was from a family of artists.”
TOUCH ON WOOD
Much of Herzfeld’s adult life involved various associations with wood.
Originally from the Troy, NY area, Herzfeld grew up in Passaic County, NJ After attending art school, she was offered a job with the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forests. His civil service title was Forestry Technician, and the work included maintenance of roads and trails, and watchtower shifts during the dry season. He also became eligible to work on details that New Jersey sent to western states to combat the spread of wildfires.
Herzfeld’s artistic inclination was also put to good use when he was a forestry technician.
“I’ve done designs for brush trucks and even painted life-size Smokey Bear exterior signs,” he said.
In 1987, Herzfeld moved to Vermont after taking a job as a seasonal firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service’s Manchester Ranger District. It was also at this time that he began making furniture and accepting other custom work involving carpentry and art.
His business operated out of a few locations, including a farm, until Herzfeld and his wife, Patty, bought a house along historic Route 7A. Herzfeld, a handyman since his teens, built his shop. It was originally 30 feet by 40 feet, but was later expanded after the addition and enclosure of a porch.
A few young part-timers have been hired over the years at Herzfeld Studios, the owner said, but it’s always been a family business. Herzfeld works in his shop and Patty works on her potter’s wheel.
“She’s doing the sandstone you see here,” Herzfeld said.
After the new store opened, Herzfeld spent most of the next 20 summers in the western United States fighting fires.
“In winter, since there was no fire, I did my own work, I made furniture,” he said. “You know, just juggling both.”
Herzfeld hung up his federal firefighter gear in 2012.
After starting to dedicate 12 months a year to his business, Herzfeld was still swept away by Shaftsbury.
“Someone took me to Houston for two months,” he said, flipping through the heavy vinyl pages of one of the photo albums in which some of his work is illustrated. “And all I did was wall work in that house. I was working every day for 12 to 14 hours a day.
Herzfeld said some of his best clients are second home owners in Vermont, and most of his clients are referred to him by other clients. That’s how his services were retained by the owner of two new homes on the North Fork of Long Island.
“The guy told me to bring a clipboard,” Herzfeld recalled.
Herzfeld traveled near the end of the island, listened to the owner’s wishes – needing a bed here, a bedside table there, a chest of drawers there – and taken action. He prepared drawings and gave an estimate to the potential client. He then took a deposit, built the plans to specifications, and returned to Long Island at regular intervals to make deliveries and installations.
Herzfeld would not disclose the value of the contract.
“It was a lot of money,” he said. “The client took care of my family for about four years.”
Herzfeld said business is good and furniture is the biggest segment, but economic inflation and supply chain issues have increased the costs he pays for wood and other raw materials. . He said he had to factor the rising price of lumber into his estimates because what he’s paying for lumber will likely have gone up between the time he wrote the estimate and the time he accepted a deposit.
Delays in fulfillment of orders by manufacturing plants brought new cooking activities to Herzfeld Studios.
“People tell me it could be eight months to nine or ten months of waiting for something from a factory, especially a kitchen,” Herzfeld said. “And I could have it for them in a few months.”
One of Herzfeld’s latest creations is a $10,000 gun cabinet he built for a Colorado doctor’s house. The wood for the cabinet, whose concave and convex shapes follow the contours of a curving staircase, came from the renovation of a house in Providence, RI The house had been built in 1736.
“When he found out I was an artist, he asked if I could do a landscape painting on the top of a backboard of the farmhouse he grew up on in the Midwest,” Herzfeld said. .
The doctor was only able to provide one photograph – an aerial view of the old farmhouse, which did not show much detail. Herzfeld asked for more information and was able to pull small nuggets of memory from the doctor about the pheasants that roamed the yard, the swing set, and a large maple tree. The artist said the client was overwhelmed by the cabinet and the depiction of the farmhouse.
“Everything about it,” Herzfeld said, “just fell into place.