(Courtesy of Guest Bloggers Bill and Colleen Ulbrich, co-owners, American Eagle Antiques)
I started American Eagle Antiques in 1973 in my home state of New Jersey. Shopping local flea markets sparked an interest in antiques, particularly furniture. I was buying and selling for several years before I married Colleen, a native Clevelander and good friend from student days at Case Western Reserve University.
Together, we spent about 30 years as antique furniture dealers — buying, repairing and refinishing, then selling traditional American Victorian and oak furniture, then expanding to French furniture, 1880s through Art Deco. We travelled to numerous events, from formal shows, like Chicago O’Hare, Papabello Cleveland Coliseum, NYC Pier Shows, to outdoor markets, like Brimfield, Mass., and Burton, Ohio. We logged thousands of miles each year, from New Jersey to Ohio to Minnesota, to D.C. to Atlanta.
About 10 years ago, we returned to Cleveland. Colleen worked for five years as a Cleveland Clinic medical secretary while I did full-time furniture restoration. Colleen “retired,” translated as returning to work with me, and we became intrigued by the repurposing of industrial salvage and discovered HGR!
Many hours are now spent together at our workshop located in an old factory building near Midtown, where we create one-of-a-kind furnishings from industrial salvage items, most acquired from HGR. We turn utility carts into brightly painted bar carts, machine stands into handsome end tables, lift tables and conveyor frames into distinctive bars or kitchen islands. We even began to incorporate local hardwoods into our repurposed pieces.
Most recently we’ve expanded to include live-edge furniture, constructed in our workshop for inventory and for custom orders. The emphasis is on dramatic grain using highly figured locally-sourced maple, walnut, oak, cherry and sycamore, to produce dining tables, desks, coffee tables, console and side tables, custom dry bars and kitchen islands. We continue to creatively use HGR salvage for one-of-a-kind furnishings for customers, who will treasure their unique “finds.”
Most of our training was on-the-job and self-taught training, including woodworking skills, repair and refinishing techniques, and above all, our teamwork! We now sell from our workshop/showroom, at markets and trade events, and have a division named UrbanFactoryClassics for selling industrial furnishings via Etsy.com and other online outlets.
We have many local customers but have shipped many major pieces to California, Utah, Florida, Texas, and around the U.S. thanks to Etsy. Our customers range from Millennials to middle-aged professionals and business owners to retirees.
Through 40-plus years, we have enjoyed the good times, coped with the tough times, changed and adapted, continue to learn, and still enjoy the challenge to be creative. We treasure each other and the wonderful people we meet, including the great folks at HGR!