Ken Curtis of KenTeck Customized Upholstery makes use of a pair of enormous scissors to trim a few of the material away as he works on a chair in his West Jordan store on Friday. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret Information)
WEST JORDAN — His identify might not be acquainted to you, however for those who stay in Utah, you have doubtless sat in a restaurant sales space made by Ken Curtis.
The West Jordan man began stitching at age 9 with the assistance of his aunt, who owned a Midvale cleansing and altering enterprise. Collectively, they made and bought automotive litter baggage, which used to hold from knobs in older autos. They saved the cash for her to buy a particular stitching machine.
“She would tackle nieces and nephews and train them find out how to cope with cash, find out how to cope with purchasers, find out how to rely change — which is one other factor individuals cannot do now,” Curtis mentioned.
He rapidly found a knack for upholstering furnishings and automotive interiors, and began taking over jobs for household and pals. By age 18, he’d earned sufficient cash to purchase his aunt’s stitching machine from her earlier than she handed away as a consequence of most cancers a few years in the past.
“When she died, I simply took that over and stored going,” Curtis mentioned as he stood inside KenTeck Customized Upholstery, his store which is brimming with materials, tools, items of furnishings and supplies like cushion filling.
Now, Curtis has finished upholstery for greater than 50 years and he fears his enterprise — like different expert trades — is rapidly changing into a factor of the previous. That is evidenced by the excessive demand on his time.
Solely about 20 upholstery outlets stay open alongside the Wasatch Entrance, Curtis famous.
He is now booked out by means of the top of the yr with industrial jobs. He says he is presently reupholstering the Twilight Lounge in Salt Lake Metropolis. He is finished the entire upholstery for cubicles at space Cafe Zupas, Zao Asian Cafes, Crown Burgers, Astro Burgers and different eating places throughout the Wasatch Entrance. By a contract with Cafe Rio, he ships cubicles for all of its new shops throughout the nation.
“After which, I simply bought the contract to do Burger Kings, all of the Burger Kings from Fillmore to Logan — 207 shops,” Curtis mentioned.
When requested whether or not he thinks incoming staff may maintain the commerce alive, he says: “I do not assume they will, I actually do not.”
Granger Excessive College in West Valley Metropolis used to show upholstery, however now Curtis believes the talent is now not taught at any colleges within the space.
“And I do know that individuals do not wish to do work like this as a result of it takes labor, it takes time to be taught, and it takes time to be good. And it additionally, I suppose it additionally has to have an inherent talent, the place if you do not have that (obsessive-compulsive dysfunction) that it requires, you might want to make each job look good,” Curtis mentioned.
He is continued working regardless of 4 damaged vertebra and “extra damaged bones than I may even inform you.”
With the scarcity of expert upholsterers, Curtis mentioned he can identify his value for a job and typically will get paid as much as $700 per hour “simply due to the pace and talent.” When he began within the enterprise, he mentioned he made $65 per yard of cloth. Now, he makes between $145 and $225 per yard — and purchasers are prepared to attend for jobs to be completed due to the scarcity.
Curtis says he would encourage anybody who may probably have the expertise for it to look into upholstery as a profession. Many outlets within the space would rent new staff on the spot, he famous.
He taught the talent to a whole lot of inmates on the Utah State Jail for 13 years.
“And one factor I’ve found is lots of people simply haven’t got that OCD and inherent talent it takes to do it, consideration to element. It requires all of that,” he mentioned, including that he’d like to carry somebody into his enterprise who may be taught the talent.
Curtis has no plans to retire, and says, “I am simply gonna maintain going till I am unable to.” He would, nevertheless, wish to have time to work on his passion, which is stitching leather-based vests, baggage, pants and different issues to promote at Mountain Man rendezvous.
“Please, any person, come take over. It is a little bit overwhelming as a result of I’ve developed the repute and it is exhausting to inform individuals: ‘No, I am unable to do this.’ My spouse says, ‘You are going to begin scheduling it out additional,’ so she went by means of my calendar and pushed everyone again a pair weeks, as a result of 2 o’clock within the morning she’s popping out saying, ‘Are you coming to mattress someday?'”
When requested what’s stored him within the enterprise for therefore lengthy, the 61-year-old quips: “It is like a line from ‘Blind Facet.’ I am good at it. … I imply, I do take pleasure in doing it as a result of I can have a look at a challenge after I get finished and say, ‘Yeah, I created that.'”
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