A measure of Martin Goebel’s business success is the number of trees his company consumes.
“This year we’ll harvest about 50 trees,” he said. “Last year we harvested 10.”
The figures are key to Goebel, whose Goebel & Co. designs and builds beds, tables, chairs and other furniture of walnut, cherry and other locally sourced hardwoods.
Goebel, 31, has ambitions for his two-year-old firm. He is moving the company more toward design and production of commercial furniture and recently earned his biggest order: 40 knotty pine tables and benches to accommodate beer drinkers at the Urban Chestnut brewery under construction on Manchester Avenue.
He also is moving the company physically, from the Temtor, a mixed-use development in the Carondelet neighborhood, to the Midtown Alley area west of downtown.
The new location, at 2936 Locust Street, gives Goebel triple the room he has at the Temtor, where racks of lumber vie for space with workers, machinery and pieces of furniture in various stages of completion.
The Temtor “was a really great incubator space for us” but it was unable to accommodate growth, he said.
In its 6,500-square-foot Midtown Alley building, his firm will have room for computerized machinery used to precision-cut wood that craftsmen turn into finished pieces. No longer will Goebel have to subcontract the computerized work.
Taking that job in-house means more workers. Goebel plans to hire three or four full-time employees to work alongside four current part timers and one full-time employee.
“There’s going to be no lull in production,” said Goebel, adding that he plans to be in full operation on Locust Street by Nov. 1.
Growth includes the addition of breadboxes and humidors to the company’s lineup of offerings and its foray into commercial furniture.
“We are expanding so we don’t have to drop any of our current product,” Goebel said.
He initially believed his beds, tables and chairs would be snapped up by DINKs — dual-income, no-kids couples drawn to high-design furniture. They are part of his customer base, but many buyers are empty nesters ready to replace furniture they got as newlyweds.
The company also turns scraps into cutting boards sold through several area outlets.
Goebel said his competitors are other “small-batch manufacturers,” not the mega-factories, many in southeast Asia, that mass-produce much of the world’s furniture.
“We’re a buy-it-once, live-with-it-for-a-lifetime type of company,” he said.
The Midwest’s abundance of hardwood is a boon to the furniture-making brethren. Goebel gets nearly all his wood within a few dozen miles of St. Louis, primarily from trees felled by storms.
He situated his company amid this profusion of raw material after turning down a job offer from a top New York furniture designer impressed by his degree from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. Instead, he came home to St. Louis, where his father, Fred Goebel, is an architect.
Midtown Alley, a node of marketing firms and ad agencies, is a good fit for small but growing outfits such as Goebel & Co., said Jassen Johnson, a resident and property owner in the area.
“There is a buzz and a real sense of community down there with the creative class,” Johnson said.
He added that foot traffic on Locust should benefit the showroom included in Goebel’s new headquarters.
Goebel’s Urban Chestnut order includes 800 pieces of custom steel furniture hardware, some made red hot, then stamped with the brewer’s logo.
Florian Kuplent, an Urban Chestnut co-founder, said Goebel’s tables and benches satisfy the brewer’s preference for close-to-home suppliers.
“And not only will the furniture be made here but the wood for it will also be sourced locally,” Kuplent said in an email.
With $200,000 in business on the books so far this year, Goebel & Co. is ahead of its projections, said the boss, who gives himself the corporate titles of design director and production manager.
He hopes that even more growth is coming soon. Much the way young filmmakers attend movie festivals to find a distributor, Goebel is set to go next month to High Point, N.C., where he will roam the world’s largest furniture trade show.
There he will seek distributors for his furniture. For example, his Isabella model table has a retail cost of $2,220 to $3,000, depending on the type of wood used.
“We’re going to put ourselves on the international stage,” he said.