D&WC: Please give a detailed
description of your company and its history.
Jean Astie: Our forged ironwork business began in France with my father. When my brother Georges and I moved to the United States in 1972, we started an iron business in Miami, FL, keeping the same family name. We moved to Dallas, TX, in 1978 and started Astie Art Metal Studio specializing in hand-forged wrought iron and furniture for showrooms.
In 1990, we founded Gaby’s Shoppe manufacturing mostly furniture and selling directly to designers. By demand of our customers, drapery hardware was added to the business and has become the largest part of it. We have a large selection of drapery hardware in our catalog and add items regularly to fill the needs of our customers.
We currently have an 18,000-square-foot facility with showroom and blacksmith shop and 11 employees altogether.
D&WC: What window coverings products
did you handle initially? What products do you handle today?
Astie: We used to do anything in wrought iron—furniture, fancy stuff, all custom. If they could supply us with a drawing, we would make it. We actually made twisted wrought iron curtain rods back in 1980 before we even started Gaby’s Shoppe because the machine we do that on we used for other things—for making wrought iron tables and things like that.
Now, we’ve ended up doing more drapery hardware than we do furniture. We started with drapery hardware because customers asked us for it. It has become 75 percent of our business. We started with practically nothing and we added to the line and added to the line and we ended up with, I believe, the biggest drapery hardware catalog in the industry.
D&WC: What is your approximate
sales volume? What was it after your first year in business?
Astie: Again, we started with practically nothing and now we do about $1 million in drapery hardware.
D&WC: Do you have a company Web site, and how is it used to communicate with customers?
Astie: Our whole catalog is on our Web site—furniture and drapery hardware. We do not take orders from the Web site. We are very strict at selling to the trade only.
D&WC: Who are your customers? What parts of the country do you service?
Astie: We sell to the design, drapery workroom and architect markets—or whatever trade. We sell all over the country.
We also sell in Europe and around the world. Sometimes we don’t even know it. The designer is from the United States, but we sometimes ship to a port of entry in New York. We recently shipped some product to New York that we knew was going to Saudi Arabia.
Gaby’s Shoppe1311 Dragon St.
Dallas, TX 75207
Fax: (214) 748-7701
D&WC: What best describes your
niche in the marketplace?
Astie: I think it’s the ability of doing custom work and understanding what the customer wants. If we understand what the customer wants, we can make anything—a bay window, curves, anything they want.
Also our finishes; we get a lot of compliments on our finishes. We have 20 different finishes, and we do custom. They are all done by hand. There is a lot of call for faux finishes.
D&WC: How has your segment of the industry changed since you first began?
Astie: It hasn’t changed that much. My brother Georges works the forge, hammering and shaping the wrought iron. We forge it like the old blacksmiths used to do. Everything we sell we manufacture our self, with the exception of some cast iron finials. Anything in wrought iron we make it our self.
My brother Georges is the only one here who does the forge work. Compared to making a wrought iron table, the time for forging the components is about 25 percent of the time needed to complete the project.
D&WC: What are some of the key factors involved in your growth and success?
Astie: Customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is very important. With custom work, sometimes it is very difficult to know what the customer has in mind. Even if the customer is a little bit wrong, he is right. We go out of our way to satisfy the customer. Sometimes we have to rework a piece.
With our experience in ironwork, we can know from early on if something is not going to work—if it’s early enough in the process. Sometimes the customer explains what he wants to accomplish and then we can work together.
D&WC: What distinguishes you from the competition?
Astie: I think there are a lot of companies offering drapery hardware. We are not the only one. We are aware of our competition, and we compete on quality the best we can. We try our best.