ASBURY PARK – Throughout his childhood in the Essex County towns of Belleville and Bloomfield, John LaBadia was surrounded by family heirlooms and other reminders of his family history there.
They made such an impression on him that years later, the retired firefighter would end up combining his carpentry skills with his love of cherished objects from the past to launch Cardinal Wood Works & Salvage in Asbury Park. .
“Growing up, we lived in the two-family house my grandfather built,” said LaBadia, 70, a Jersey Shore enthusiast who now lives in Glen Ridge (Essex County) but also has a home in Point Pleasant. A natural tinkerer, “I like to make different things out of wood or help with tidying around the house with my dad, who is very good at his hands and a great teacher.”
LaBadia said he got the “flea market bug” at first, “and in my twenties, I started rearranging the vintage wood furniture I saw at flea markets, including a drop-leaf table that I owned I still do today. “
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“I got advice from others on how to refine furniture and it was a little trial-and-error at first, but I liked the history in the older pieces and I found that they were beautiful. when they were new, ”LaBadia said of his affinity for restoring antique wooden treasures in his free time.
Duty called, however, and in 1977, LaBadia was sworn in as a firefighter in Belleville, eventually retiring as battalion leader in 2008. Although he loved his job for more than 30 years, “I am willing to retire ,” he says. “It’s been a great career, and I’m always in line” – even serving in the twin towers on September 11, 2001, as part of an EMT crew, where he treats some victims as well as some fellows. firefighters.
Five years before he retired, however, in 2003, “I bought a bunch of things at an auction house in Point Pleasant one night,” he said. “I’ve been collecting, buying, refinishing and selling antiques for years, but that summer I decided to do business with my wife, Nancy.”
He rented space at the Antique Emporium in the then -vibrant Asbury Park township and officially launched Cardinal Wood Works & Salvage, a business he named as a tribute to his late mother, who shared his love of vintage finds.
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“My mother was an antiquero who died young,” LaBadia explains. “Growing up, we always had cardinals in our backyard and we fed them. After she died, every time we saw a cardinal, we thought it was my mother, so we named the business after her.”
Refinishing and repurposing
Today, in the 10-foot-by-20-foot space he rents at the 65-dealer Antique Emporium on Asbury Park’s bustling Cookman Avenue, a variety of refinished LaBadia furniture and repurposed pieces are made of reclaimed wood (and even vintage nails) are all included. from cupboards, coffee tables and end tables to dining tables, stools and more.
Often called upon to make custom pieces for new and repeat customers, “standard kitchen or dining tables typically run from $ 800 to $ 1,200 and I will work with customers to make exactly what they want – round, rectangular, square , etc. – and make sure its design is safe and structurally sound, ”he said.
“I also offer smaller pieces, such as a 15-inch square table and 8-inch square plant stand that run from $ 100 to $ 150 as well as some home decorating items, such as wooden stars that made of reclaimed wood that I decorated with evergreen during the holidays and sold for $ 125, ”said LaBadia.
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Working out of his 1,500-square-foot shop in Belleville, a 1930s structure that once served as a garage for a taxi company owned by his uncles, LaBadia took materials from old homes, buildings, churches, and even an old brewery and enjoyed working with all types of wood, from cedar, walnut and oak to mahogany, birch and pine.
“I like the natural look and the opportunity to let a good old piece of wood stand on its own,” LaBadia says of her creative style. “And I love working with the combination of wood and steel because I think they look good.”
According to LaBadia, so do many of today’s furniture buyers. “While heavy-duty oak and tiger oak furniture has been very popular in recent years,” he says, “a lot of people now prefer industrial/industrial chic designs and the sleek lines represented by modern mid-century and Danish pieces. ”
Making his items using tools such as a ring roller, welder, drill press, router, planer and various saws to cut the steel he buys to a length of 10 feet, LaBadia said some custom pieces are stamping on his memory.
Among them, “I once built and installed a 16-foot-long, 8-foot-high wall-length closet for one customer, while another customer in Brooklyn instructed me to make a very unique table with a wine rack on one side, shelves on the other and four stools underneath.It was challenging, almost like making two tables in one, and it took me a few weeks to design and build, but it turned out great and the client liked it.
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Modification of wood and steel
Focused on developing her signature pieces, interacting with customers, and working at the Antique Emporium two days a month as Nancy explores flea markets and estate sales for vintage finds and materials she knows she’ll like of his wife, LaBadia said some materials costs have increased. during the pandemic. Fortunately, the amount of reclaimed wood he obtained from various sources over time succeeded him.
“I enjoy making custom pieces, working with customers, and giving them exactly what they’re looking for,” says LaBadia, who hopes people will visit her at the Antique Emporium to view the 20 to 25 pieces on display. he was there.
“I’ve always loved creating things and making a piece of furniture a pile of lumber and steel that people will use and enjoy,” LaBadia said of a hobby she thinks is both challenging and relaxing. “I also deliver most of the pieces, especially if the customer is local, because it’s fun to see where they put it and how they use it.”
“Ultimately, it was fun to know that I made something that someone would use in their home,” LaBadia concludes. “I think it’s proving that I’m doing something that people like and appreciate.”
Cardinal Wood Works & Salvage
Location: Inside the Antique Emporium, 646 Cookman Ave., Asbury Park
Phone: 973-698-4821 (Cardinal Wood Works) or 732-774-8230 (Antique Emporium)
Owner: John LaBadia
Website: www.cardinalwoodworksandsalvage.com; [email protected]
Social media: cardinal_wood_works (Instagram); Cardinal Wood Works & Salvage (Facebook)