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Today we received a great interview from the Telegraph Journal, the Saint John newspaper giving us a little media coverage….ok so its our first media coverage!! How awesome!
East side man crafts unique furniture, other products from reclaimed wood
MIKE MULLEN Telegraph-Journal
SAINT JOHN • As he slides ever closer to full retirement, 63-year-old east sider Mike Cosman has found a unique way of benefiting monetarily from the old-school housebuilding skills he acquired as a young man.
He’s making furniture out of reclaimed wood in the basement of his Loch Lomond Road home – and selling it online under the name East Coast Rustic.
“This is really just an extension of what I’ve always done,” the master craftsman said in an interview Thursday, while crediting his entrepreneurial and web-savvy son Rob, an accountant who lives in Toronto, for both convincing him to give the business a go and becoming part of its success.
Mike Cosman takes down old barns and outbuildings and, from materials he collects, produces everything from unique coat hangers to wall art to iPad and iPhone holders. His buyers, including a delighted woman from Texas who recently had him make a rustic rack for her friend’s collection of polo mallets, come from both sides of the 49th parallel.
“My dad is a master craftsman and I’m not saying that just because he is my dad,” son Rob said in an email explaining the story behind the birth of East Coast Rustic. “He has a level of skill that not many people have anymore for building things out of wood and lots of other materials. His attention to detail, patience and quality of what he builds is great.”
Rob said it was his effort to find his semi-retired dad a way to supplement his income combined with his wife’s wish for new kitchen table and bench from reclaimed wood – similar to those expensive ones on HGTV shows like Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn – that resulted in the launch of East Coast Rustic.
Mike Cosman did get the bench off to his son and daughter-in-law. But he’s been too busy to do the table.
That’s because halfway through the project, Rob Cosman suddenly thought, “Why doesn’t he start making some things like this out of reclaimed wood? I knew I could get them online and sell the crap out of them.”
While his father was building up some inventory to offer for sale on Etsy, an online marketplace that artists use to sell their products, and Houzz, his son started out building the store front, getting registered, approved and configuring the store for policies, shipping, and receiving new ideas.
Both men quickly discovered people were willing to pay for a piece of furniture that is handmade by a real craftsman and, in addition to other online sites, have set up their own website: etsy.com/ca/shop/EastCoastRustic.
“Currently, I handle all the accounting, website development, order and marketing on Etsy, Houzz and our own website,” Rob Cosman said. “Dad works on product ideas, building, photographing and shipping the items.”
Among the things that makes East Coast Rustic stand out, Rob said, is its quick replies and customer service.
Mike Cosman now spends eight hours daily in his basement workshop, or as he calls it, “The place the magic happens,” but refuses to work after 9 p.m. in order to ensure he spends some quality time with wife Patricia.
“I always have to do something with my hands,” he said. “I always have to build something. I started out building houses when I was 20 years old and learned the housebuilding trade from old-school carpenters and house builders. They taught me everything from sharpening the handsaws and the chisels to how to build houses. And from there, it just grew. I have been in construction and homebuilding, industrial and commercial, for most of my life – mostly self-employed.”
He had, however, spent the latter years his working life at the Irving Oil Refinery.
“But that’s hard on the body,” he said. “I’m 63 and when I turned 61, I decided it was time to slow down.
“What I needed is something I could do even if I can’t climb 100 feet in the refinery, or if I get so I can only work three or four hours per day, or I only want to work three or four hours a day,” he added. “In the worst-case scenario, if (the company) goes good enough, I can hire somebody to take down a building if I have to.”
Cosman had already renovated and rebuilt most of his home, originally built in 1874, reclaiming whatever he could for some future projects. He now places ads on Kijiji looking for those who want old barns or outbuildings torn down and cleaned up.
“That is where I get my raw material,” he said. “In return, they get it removed and cleaned up with no cost to them. It’s not cheap to tear them down and not cheap to haul them away.”
He said East Coast Rustic only posts available one-of-a-kind product online for sale, but the company does take custom orders.
As for putting his son and daughter-in-law’s handcrafted table on the back burner for now, he says Rob only has himself to blame.
“He got too good at his job and we found a niche and it’s growing,” he said. “I’m quite happy with the way it’s going. I’m going back to the old-school where it’s like I am a furniture maker, almost. An old-school furniture maker – with modern tools and modern glue and old fastenings, old lumber, old quality.
“Even the old rustic stuff I produce is smooth to the feel but it’s still rough and it still has that old flavour.”
And best of all, he said, everything he produces comes with its own story.
“That is what people want,” he said. “They want to know where the wood came from.”