Business

This furniture startup was supposed to move to Hillsborough. Now it’s going to Burlington.

Dennis Blanco, left, and Bryce Williamson founded Cardinal Workshop, a startup furniture maker, in Queens, New York in 2015. The two UNC graduates were planning to move the company to Hillsborough, but will now be moving it to Burlington because of costs.
Dennis Blanco, left, and Bryce Williamson founded Cardinal Workshop, a startup furniture maker, in Queens, New York in 2015. The two UNC graduates were planning to move the company to Hillsborough, but will now be moving it to Burlington because of costs. Courtesy of Cardinal Workshop

Furniture-making startup Cardinal Workshop announced last year that it was moving its operations from New York City to Hillsborough – a move that would allow it to expand more cheaply.

But, after expenses kept piling up at its potential space in Orange County, the company will instead be moving to Burlington, co-founder Dennis Blanco said.

The expenses were related to getting the building – near the intersection of N.C. 86 and Interstate 85 – up to fire code.

“All options were too costly, time-consuming or cumbersome for us and our landlord,” Blanco said. “We worked with him to make the decision to move, which was best for all parties.”

Founded in 2015 by UNC alumni Blanco and Bryce Williamson in New York, Cardinal makes mid-century modern furniture aimed at young, tech-savvy consumers who move around a lot.

The furniture, which uses lumber from a Pennsylvania mill, is designed to be put together and taken apart easily, while sturdy enough to handle being moved from one apartment (or house) to another.

Furniture
Some of the furniture offered by Cardinal Workshop Courtesy of Cardinal Workshop

Before originally selecting Hillsborough for its relocation, Blanco said Cardinal had also considered Mebane and Burlington. Orange County threw in a small business grant worth around $9,000 to sweeten the move to Hillsborough. Cardinal said previously that it had planned to hire three to five local workers.

The company is in the process of moving to downtown Burlington, Blanco said.

“We can get operational sooner in Burlington,” Blanco said of the new space. “And our overhead will be lower, so we can start putting more focus on product development.”

Cardinal will not have to repay the small business grant from Orange County, said Steve Brantley, director of the Orange County Economic Development office.

“Cardinal applied their county grant to their originally stated purpose, which was to provide for up-fit costs to bring additional electrical capacity to the building they planned to lease,” Brantley said via email. “I am satisfied with their efforts to meet the grant’s use. The firm is not being asked to repay any grant.”

“The subsequent issue raised by the local fire marshal that caused the firm to run into additional unexpected up-fit costs (sprinkler installation) was what caused the firm to reevaluate its location in Hillsborough and decide to move to another location,” he added.

Despite the company moving to Burlington, Williamson will still live in Durham, while Blanco will commute between Brooklyn – where most of the company’s sales are – and Durham, Blanco said.

Blanco sees Burlington as an increasingly attractive place for small manufacturers.

“It seems like a lot of the manufacturing-related small businesses and startups we've met are looking at or moving to Burlington for its affordable industrial space,” he said.

Zachery Eanes: 919-419-6684, @zeanes

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