Nathan Kushner is a homegrown designer and furniture maker whose fine craftsmanship is capturing attention in Thunder Bay.
Beginning in his parent’s garage in 2014, Kushner now owns and operates Industrial Craftsman and has created pieces for many local businesses including the Thunder Bay International Airport.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands,” Kushner said. “I like the tactile (process) of being able to be hands-on and at the end of the day, see something physical that you’ve been creating. It’s all about creative input, having an idea of something drawn out, and then working through the problems to come up with solutions on how to put things together. It’s like working with a puzzle and at the end of the day, week or month, you come up with a final solution and there’s a finished piece of furniture to it.”
As orders grew, Kushner was running out of space. By 2015, he found a building that would both accommodate his expanding equipment and provide a good-sized working area.
“I packed up all of my stuff from my folk’s garage and moved to the location where I’m at today. It was pretty serendipitous how it worked out that way,” he said.
The timing was perfect as he began work on a 16-foot boardroom table for Richardson Elevator along with several other projects.
Kushner was able to take advantage of the BDO Jumpstart Program which provided him with an accountant to help him work on his business plan and an agent to help him work out the important details to have a successful business.
“Once my business plan was good to go, I was able to bring in clientele, and still be able to collect my employment insurance,” he said. “I was able to develop my business and I could put food on my table. It helped that barrier of how do you start this when you’re unknown?”
Kushner says gaining a start began by word of mouth and evolved from there. Local business owners were noticing him.
Kushner’s artistic work can be found throughout Thunder Bay. The lavish lounge and ballroom bars at the Chanterelle were designed and built by Kushner as well as the bar in Lakehead Beer Company. Prime Gelato and Laviche Cafe feature his work along with many law firms. He has also done furnishings for residential clients.
“I built tabletops at the Thunder Bay airport as well as their Flybrary lounge chairs, a memorial bench in the same style and their boardroom tables,” he said. “The big project was the Nomad cafe up in the departure lounge which is the biggest project I’ve ever done.”
He says the relationship that he has with airport management enabled him to embark on these opportunities to really showcase his versatility and fine craftsmanship.
“It’s not just a dining room table or a bathroom vanity for somebody. It goes into that large, commercial, architectural millwork and very big scale stuff,” he said.
Kushner says being supported by local businesses commissioning him to create furnishings for them, as well as local suppliers, is “huge.” Not only does it earn him a living, it also provides partnerships that benefit everyone.
For now, Kushner is busy with many projects and is lining up more for 2024. He has created pieces for individuals in Toronto but is focused on the local community.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate, whether it’s my work ethic and the quality that I’m continually putting out there. It’s always satisfying for people to come to me to ask for unique pieces of furniture, and if somebody’s reaching out to me from another city, I’m more than happy to take on those projects,” he said. “For now, I’m doing Thunder Bay.”
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