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Homegrown 0

James + James Branching Out with Handcrafted Wood Furniture

James Smith of James and James Carpenters
James Smith, founder of Springdale-based furniture company James + James

Smith was between jobs in 2011 after spending a few years managing social media and web design for corporate giants like Walmart at a local ad agency. He was unemployed, looking for a new career path when he stumbled upon a pattern on Pinterest that led him down a path he never thought he’d take. When browsing the site looking for trends, ideas, and inspiration, he noticed that people were unusually excited about simple, handcrafted wood furniture.

“I realized people really like a very straightforward look, something that isn’t overly complicated,” he said.

Smith, who was not trained as a carpenter and hadn’t really built much before, bought a circular saw and built a coffee table. What he didn’t know at the time, is that he was also building the foundation for what would become a wildly successful furniture business called James + James.

Craftsmen in the James and James Shop
Craftsmen work to finish some James + James pieces

Handcrafting a company

Smith posted his creation for online, but it didn’t sell immediately. In fact, it sat on Craigslist for a month before it finally found a home. But the simple style in which it was built led to a flurry of interest for other furniture products.

“People started calling and asking if I could build things like dining room tables and headboards,” said Smith. “I had no idea how to do that, but I needed money to eat, so I said, ‘Yeah,’ and then figured it out later.”

Figure it out, he did. Smith’s signature farmhouse tables have become a top seller for James + James, but the company also makes benches, shelving, and bedroom furniture. James said while it felt strange to be making things up as he was going along, customer feedback was so good that it became obvious he was doing something right.

Happy customers shared photos of their new furniture on social media sites, which led to more inquiries and more orders. It wasn’t long before Smith and his college friend James Eldridge were operating an actual business out of Smith’s garage.

James and James Carpenters
The James + James wood shop at 460 W. Randall Wobbe Lane in Springdale

American made (to order)

Smith has since long outgrown the garage, and Eldridge sold his interest in the company about a year ago to some local investors. But some of the values Smith established in the early days of James + James still permeate the company today.

From the beginning, nearly every piece Smith creates is customized in some way, something that has become a calling card for the company. …

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Dustin Bartholomew is the co-founder of Fayetteville Flyer, an online publication covering all things news, art and life in Fayetteville, Arkansas since 2007. A graduate of the Department of English at the University of Arkansas and a lifelong resident of the area, he still lives in east Fayetteville with his son Hudson, daughter Evelyn, his wife Brandy, and his two dogs Lily and Steve. On occasion, he tickles the ivories in a local band called The Good Fear.

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