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Meet Randall Barbera of Antique Trunk Restoration & Design in South Bay

Today we’d like to introduce you to Randall Barbera.

Randall, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Having grown up in New England, at a very young age I was exposed to lots of antiques. My parents had them, all my neighbors had them and I had this horrible habit of always breaking them, by accident of course. So I had to learn to be creative to be able to fix them before I got busted and, I did. I guess that’s when I introduced myself to the world of restoring. I became sidetracked for the next several decades and wound up having a career within the music business and I think I did it all. I played in bands, I worked in a recording studio, I was a road manager, a live sound engineer, a personal artist manager, a record company VP and I can’t remember what else! I ended up living in NYC for several years and got sick of it, and the music biz which seemed to be caving in on itself. So I moved to LA and didn’t do much for a while. I hung out at the beach, put together a little recording studio and worked with some local bands and then I started collecting trunks. My then girlfriend (now my wife and partner, Lisa Chapman) had this house with a big garage and it kept filling up with trunks until she finally said “Why don’t you do something with these”, and I did. I got into a creative head and starting recovering them with cool fabrics and new wood and basically redesigned them. Next, I had a garage full of…. restored and redesigned trunks and Lisa said “Why don’t you do something with all of these?!”, so I did! I took a batch of photos of most of them and drove into LA and walked into HD BUTTERCUP with a Manilla envelope under my arm full of trunk photos. I walked up to the very first little boutique area I saw and pulled up a chair in front of the “guy behind his desk”, introduced myself and spilled out the trunk photos onto his desk. His eyes opened wide and he said ‘”Wow! These are fucking amazing!” and right then and there, he ordered half a dozen! Nothing happened for a week and then I came home late one night to hear a message on my voicemail from the same guy saying that all the trunks had sold out, he wanted more as quickly as I could get them to him. That was really good news, that night! And I guess it all evolved from there. I was contacted by One Kings Lane who did a Tastemakers Tag Sale with my work and all of the trunks sold out within a half hour of the flash sale opening. Then it was on to all of the antique related websites. I was selling trunks on all of them before I had my own website…but then……the economy went bust and people just weren’t buying trunks. “This sucks”, I thought but them something else happened that I didn’t expect. I started getting calls from people who already had trunks, and they were asking me to restore them to look like the ones on my website. So next, I’ve got people from all over the country shipping me trunks to be restored and that’s when Lisa came on board full time. Since then, it’s been a fast and furious ride, keeping up with all of the restoration work coming at us and finding time to re-create trunks which we can sell.

Has it been a smooth road?
It certainly hasn’t been a completely smooth ride the whole way, like anything else you try to do without having much experience, you get a little banged up on the way. I’ve always been best at throwing myself in the deepest end of the pool first and then figuring out how to swim later. Running a business, even a small one like we are, is a job unto itself. And then finding time to actually DO the work, and be creative and stay stimulated is another job altogether. Lisa keeps me sane though. We’re married, we work together and in each other’s faces 24/7 and we still aren’t sick of each other at all. She’s a very creative, resourceful individual, thank God! keeps up with my pace! She’s the one that keeps the steady flow of trunk in need of restoring coming through the door. So keep calling her, please! We love restoring trunks, so keep them coming!

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Antique Trunk Restoration & Design – Randall Barbera – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
We’re a two-man (well…) operation, with the might of a small army. When we started, I told Lisa that we’re going to be the Led Zeppelin of antique trunks (hellloo?) and we work like we’re not just the performers, but also the crew, and the drivers and the merchandisers, and the guitar techs (I meant to say the BASS techs!). We do everything that we need to do from buying trunk nails, to hauling our finished trunks into the storage facility, to looking for new (old, I mean) trunks at flea markets and working social media and all the marketing and and and! I think we’re best known for some of the creative embellishments which we’ve built into trunks. We’ve taken creative liberty to make them different, cutting edge, if you will, and also to maintain the historical accuracy of those trunks needing to last forever. We were fortunate to have been noticed by the Heart Corporation who commissioned us to restore a slew of Louis Vuitton trunks which they had unearthed. That was a fun project and we became friends with a bunch of their employees and even a few Hearst’s as well. Very cool bunch of people. They invited us up to the Castle and what a blast that was! I think the thing that sets us apart from other trunkers is that we do step outside the box. We love what we do and don’t ever want to stop! We’re in the developmental stages of introducing a line of furniture and accessories and we’re pretty excited about that. We’ve incorporated some very cool elements taken from antique trunks into these pieces. I don’t think that anything has ever been done quite the way we are doing it, stay tuned!

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I’m an East Coast guy that has come to love LA. I love the obvious weather and I hate the obvious traffic. I sometimes miss just being able to hail a cab and go wherever I need to go, like in NYC, but I like the space that LA offers, it’s something hard to find if living in NYC.

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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.

1 Comment

  1. Sheena Kinslow

    June 21, 2017 at 20:56

    Great interview…Great work..

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