K&J Upholstery: 30 years of experience

26 Jun 2018

Small Business

Groton — Jonathan Holland lost his grandfather decades ago but still recalls the advice he imparted.

“He was the biggest influence in my life and he told me, ‘If you work with your hands you will never go broke.’ And I was not a book scholar, and I liked to work with my hands, and he was right,” Holland said.

Holland, the owner of K&J Upholstery in the City of Groton, has been working with furniture for 40 years, 30 years as his own boss. He got his start directly out of Norwich Free Academy four decades ago when he landed an entry-level position at the former Helikon Furniture Co. in Taftville.

His first job was to put cambric, a lightweight, closely woven fabric, on the bottom of chairs to serve as a dust deck, and he took the work seriously.

“I was green, I didn’t know anything, but Helikon was very high-end, and they trained me,” said Holland, 57. “They taught me things like when you staple, it’s a straight line. They were perfectionists and I worked my way up in stages.”

As Holland’s skills improved, he was coached in the art of upholstering.

“It’s a trade, a skill. It’s not something you learn overnight,” he said. “You have to have patience and you have to want to do it.”

In 1986, when elite furniture-maker company Herman Millar bought out Helikon, Holland stayed on and was trained to make the stylish Eames Lounge Chair, still a classic today and popularized by the television sit-com “Frasier.” Martin Crane, the father in the long-running show, spent considerable time in his Eames chair.

Holland would stay about a decade at the Taftville factory working his way into a management position. But, when he saw furniture that he had made on display at an elite trade show in New York City, he decided it was time to set out on his own.

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