Opelika man builds, sells custom, rustic furniture
By Rebekah Martin
Tommy Carter spends most of his days battling the sweltering Alabama heat inside a nondescript warehouse on Columbus Parkway. It is there where Carter builds custom, rustic furniture under the name Southern Furniture Plus.
A 27-year veteran of the Lee County Sheriff’s Department, Carter found his passion for his new venture nearly 3 years ago while working part-time at Angel’s Antiques. He and his wife Lynn sold homemade arts and crafts from an Angel’s booth at the time, and Carter said he noticed the demand for built-to-order furniture. Something else he noticed were the prices people were paying for such furniture. Carter said he decided to try his hand at the hobby, while making sure his prices stayed reasonable and affordable. It did not take long for his side job to evolve into a booming business that keeps him busy and his customers coming back for more.
“I made some pieces for friends, and a few pieces for my house … I just kept getting better and better, and then I thought ‘You know, there’s got to be a market for cheaper, but high-quality furniture, because I started looking around and some of these places are charging astronomical fees for these things,” Carter said. “I built a few and ‘boom’ they were just gone. It’s just taken off.”
Carter now stays busy building his projects – devoting his time to one piece at a time.
“I could build a table in a day, but the finishing, painting and curing takes longer,” Carter said. I don’t like to work on more than once project at a time, so that I’m focused on that one project,” Carter said. “I try to stick to that person’s project, whatever it may be.” Carter said his method provides his customers with a higher quality piece they will be pleased with.
“The biggest thing to me is to be able to offer a quality product at a lower, more affordable price … I don’t think it’s right to jack up prices just because you can,” Carter said.
While a majority of what he does centers around building made-to-order furniture, Carter also restores old, antique pieces. He is currently working on refurbishing a watch repair desk from the 1920s. Carter said he enjoys both aspects of his business, building new furniture and also bringing antique pieces back to their former glory.
“I’ve built kitchen islands, desks, just about anything you can imagine … it’s the difference that keeps it interesting,” Carter said.
Carter operates his business mainly from his Facebook page. Photos descriptions and prices are posted there as he completes new projects.
Carter said he enjoys his new career path, and is pushed everyday to go the extra mile for people because of his wife of 21 years. “She drives me to do my best and to do what I can to help others.”