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Meet Lisa Chapman of RANDALL BARBERA – Antique Trunk Restoration & Design

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lisa Chapman.

Lisa, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I had been managing a high-end gift shop in Manhattan Beach when I learned that there was an antique restoration company in the South Bay. I’ve always loved antiques and thought it would be interesting to find out more about this company, so I did some research and then got in touch with Randall Barbera, the owner.

At that time, he was running the company by himself, doing everything, from production to sales to marketing and I told him that I could do just about everything that he was doing, although I knew very little about antique trunk restoration. When I first started with Antique Trunk Restoration & Design, I saw an opportunity to expand awareness for his services and talked him into devoting effort into not only redesigning antique trunks to sell to the general public but to also offer restoration service to others. I initiated a campaign to first get the word out locally and we placed ads in every local paper we could find and the phone started ringing with inquiries and soon after, had a storage room filled with trunks to be restored.

With a backlog of work to be completed, that’s when Randall started teaching me the trade, and next thing I knew, I was working with him side by side in our shop, refinishing, repairing and restoring trunks of all sizes and shapes. It was hard work! In addition to these restorations, there was increasing demand from our various internet sales partners to keep the redesigned trunks flowing into the system for sale.

Once we were able to create systems which allowed us to efficiently keep up with the then current workload, I suggested that we also offer our services to the interior design community in Los Angeles and I assembled a mailing list of just about every designer I could find and began contacting them. We discovered that there was also a market for building custom trunks and the friends we had made within that community placed several orders for one of a kind custom trunks.

At this point, we were both working 12 hour days and my suggestions, and added manpower, allowed us to upgrade our tools and equipment and we were filling orders with amazing results. Then, the recession hit…

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Up until the recession, we enjoyed two revenue streams. The first being the restoration work which had quadrupled since I came on board and the second being the redesigned trunks which we sold via the various partnered internet based sales platforms. The recession virtually halted sales of our redesigned trunks and it was pretty scary. Luckily, the inquires for private restorations remained constant but there was a void to fill.

Randall has a small collection of antique Louis Vuitton trunks which he restored and when I suggested to him that we get the word out that we also restore these higher end antique trunks, we agreed that we should try and emphasize our expertise with restoring French made trunks as well. I put together a list of retirement communities in southern California and began marketing to these, with a view towards restoring old Louis Vuitton trunks as eventual heirlooms.

Soon after, we received a call from the Hearst Corporation in San Francisco and they shipped us a quantity of historical Louis Vuitton’s for restoration. Then, we were contacted by a member of the Kennedy family to restore a precious barrel top trunk that had been in the family for generations. Word also must have gotten out to other high profile individuals as we were soon restoring all kinds of trunks for the rich and famous!

It’s crazy to think that opportunity still existed within a failing economy but, lucky for us, our niche was in the right place, at the right time!

Please tell us about RANDALL BARBERA – Antique Trunk Restoration & Design.
Our business, as previously mentioned, is in a very small niche which always seems to create unique opportunities for us to be creative within. Having been at it now for nearing what are two decades, it’s really rewarding to know that people in need of trunk restoration, will always get in touch.

We have worked hard over the years to produce the highest quality products and service and we are so thankful that we are recognized as leaders in this niche. What sets us apart from other restoration companies is that we are always versatile and will admit what we know, and what we don’t know.

Being honest with our clients has always been one of the cornerstones of our business.

We also always try to over-deliver in every aspect of each project too. I guess you could say that the fact that we work on wardrobe trunks sets us apart and also that we can restore any French trunk ever made. Those are two major differences. Oh… and did I forget to mention that we also build custom trunks?

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Growing up in Orange County and going to Newport Beach with my friends in the summertime. We always had such a blast!

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Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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