Shoulder to Shoulder at Thomas Riley Artisans’ Guild

What Naples structure lacks in historical past in comparison with Florida’s extra storied cities, reminiscent of St. Augustine as an illustration, it actually makes up in scope and scale. A leisurely cruise down Gordon Drive is all of the proof one wants, because the facades of multimillion greenback estates gaze out to onlookers by means of verdant fronds and foliage. However what in regards to the interiors of those properties? Who designs them? Who’s entrusted with creating the elegant and infrequently elaborate parts resting inside the partitions and home windows?

Within the case of tremendous millwork, cabinetry, and finishes, a conceivable reply is Thomas Riley Artisans’ Guild, a Naples-based woodworking firm with a status of being one of many best in the US. Its roots are humble. Based in 1991, the corporate was created by Thomas Riley (referred to as Tommy to most) with a mere 4 workers working from a 3,000-square-foot constructing positioned off Taylor Highway.

Initially from the Empire State, Tommy first skilled Southwest Florida in 1970 when—as a favor to a good friend—he drove a automobile southward from New York to Naples. It was a paradise discovered.

“I liked it,” says Tommy. “It was a sleepy little city then. There was no I-75 right here but, The Ritz-Carlton didn’t exist, and Gray Oaks and the Vineyards neighborhoods had been principally tomato and strawberry fields.”

Tommy—who on the time aspired to be a police officer in New York—determined to pivot from legislation enforcement, as an alternative making an interstate transfer to Naples in 1975, when he opened Say Cheese, a gourmand specialty store. With its Park Shore Plaza location and tremendous cheeses, meats, wines, and sweets, Say Cheese attracted the Naples elite and flourished for a number of years. By the early Nineteen Eighties, nevertheless, big-box grocery shops had encroached on Naples, affecting small mom-and-pop outlets, taking a chew of Say Cheese’s market share. “They used a notice from the playbook and began promoting high-end cheeses and wine,” he says.

Intrinsically entrepreneurial, Tommy rallied, shifting gears in 1984, collaborating along with his good good friend, Invoice Herbst, a gifted furnishings refinishing and vintage restoration artisan. Tommy joined Herbst, who had began a wooden refinishing enterprise. Working facet by facet, the pair shaped a realistic partnership. As Tommy explains, “He dealt with extra of the inventive facet, whereas I had a extra managerial position.”

As a result of Herbst and Tommy had been well-connected and centered on superior craftsmanship, they landed noteworthy jobs from prosperous Southwest Floridians. “One of many first bigger tasks was refinishing a portion of the mahogany woodwork in a Collier household residence in Port Royal,” remembers Tommy. “We stripped and refinished all of it; it took months. That was an inspirational challenge.”

Chiseling a distinct segment out there, Tommy and Herbst continued with their refinishing enterprise for a number of years. Round 1989, nevertheless, Tommy’s visionary thoughts began to suppose greater. His plan was bold, if not idealistic. He would type a crew of extremely expert craftspeople working to create distinctive customized woodworking merchandise inside a collaborative tradition primarily based on precepts of equity, honesty, love, and kindness. And these specialised, luxurious merchandise could be principally focused to a selected and restricted clientele: those that might afford them.

Solely a pair years later with steering from some necessary mentors, together with a number of outstanding businesspeople in Naples, Tommy created Thomas Riley Artisans’ Guild with a mission it nonetheless abides by at this time: “serving a discerning clientele with monumental-quality merchandise and white-glove service.”

All through his tenure with the corporate, Tommy, who’s now retired, maintained his management place—estimating, coordinating gross sales, and organizing the crew to get issues carried out. “I discovered that I’ve a talent for managing folks,” he states. “I respect others’ skills, and my job revolved round motivating the artisans and showcasing and promoting their work to high-end purchasers.”

“Tommy has an unimaginable humorousness, authenticity, and charisma,” says Chad Jensen, CEO/inventive director for Technique & Idea, a Naples-based up to date artwork gallery and design studio and a Thomas Riley Firm. “He’s a straightforward particular person to observe as a result of he demonstrates such a excessive stage of care, honesty, and empathy; he’s by no means above performing even probably the most menial job.”

As Naples grew within the Nineties, so too did its prosperous demographic, offering extra demand for the guild’s services and products. “In yr one, we reported $300,000 in gross sales,” recounts Tommy. “Then, it doubled the subsequent yr. For 5 to 6 years, it doubled yearly.”

As we speak, Thomas Riley Artisans’ Guild boasts roughly 80 workers, together with two of Tommy’s sons, Matt and Ben, who at present personal and function the corporate from a big North Naples campus comprising a number of buildings. Matt serves as CEO, whereas Ben is president and chief working officer. Their footprint has additionally expanded exterior of Southwest Florida, with work being carried out in Palm Seaside, in addition to California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York.

Spectacular but not overwhelming, the campus homes design, manufacturing, and engineering departments, in addition to administrative places of work and showrooms. Inside the partitions, there are old-school instruments of the commerce to be discovered. Nonetheless, the buildings are geared up with huge cutting-edge woodworking and ending equipment, too, together with high-dollar trendy marvels that may intrigue the likes of Thomas Edison or Henry Ford.

“Since our inception, it’s been a precedence to put money into state-of-the-art gear, amenities, and software program to help our crew in offering monumental- high quality craftsmanship, whereas persevering with to make use of and educate the ‘Outdated World’ craftsmanship strategies,” says Ben, who holds a level in manufacturing engineering from Boston College and is chargeable for the corporate’s funds, administrative operations, and workflow processes.

Even with all of the high-tech devices, the true wonders of the corporate are its workers, who design and create probably the most intricate, refined of jobs. “There aren’t quite a lot of outlets that may execute the kind of work our crew does; each job we do is sort of a prototype,” relays Matt. “We’ve got a crew of drawback solvers, nevertheless, they usually get enthusiastic about new challenges.”

At the very least a few of these new challenges have concerned reimaging, reinvigorating, or renovating the previous. “As Florida ages, it offers us an avenue to take care of home windows and doorways but in addition to rework,” says Matt. “We had been there for the unique Naples growth, however we’re nonetheless right here greater than 30 years later to redo a lot of the work we did. That’s a reasonably cool factor.”

Whereas Tommy retired from the enterprise to get pleasure from life alongside his spouse, Carol, on a North Carolina farm, he’s greater than assured within the management from Matt and Ben, who’re increasing. Amongst different ventures, they’ve acquired a ending firm referred to as Acanthus Worldwide. “The boys are diversifying,” Tommy explains.

For Matt, it’s an honor to assist carry the torch. “What [Tommy] has carried out as an entrepreneur isn’t simple,” he says. “I’m happy with what we discovered from somebody who had folks in thoughts, not income. What differentiates us is our tradition, and our core values won’t change. We all know our id.”

Producing luxurious artisanal millwork for probably the most discerning of purchasers requires planning and a course of. Tastes are past discriminating, expectations are sky-high, and precision is paramount. Each order is a tall one. So, how has Thomas Riley Artisans’ Guild managed to ship time and time once more? In keeping with Tommy, a shoulder-to-shoulder mentality has rather a lot to do with it. “The particular person driving the truck is simply as very important because the artisan woodworking,” he says. “The chance for failure is nice on this enterprise. Everyone seems to be necessary.”