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Twenty years ago, Ecuadorians Mauricio and Patricia Guevara built a hotel in their hometown of Ibarra. To pay off their loan, they decided to move to America, but only temporarily.  They landed in Bedford in 2006, and Mauricio took a job in construction while Patricia began cleaning homes.

Fast forward 18 years  – the Guevaras never made it back to Ecuador. Instead, they opened New England Antique Lumber in Mount Kisco in 2015 and a second store, New England Lumber, in Westport in 2021. They’ve raised their three daughters here; two are now college graduates and the youngest is in college.

Twelve years ago, Patricia Guevara was cleaning houses when one of her clients mentioned he wanted to add reclaimed beams to a room in his house and asked to speak with her husband, Mauricio, who owned a construction company. The two met and Mauricio said he would do the job for $20,000 less than anyone else in the area.

Mauricio hadn’t worked with reclaimed lumber before, but he knew where to go, and he asked Patricia if she’d like to join him on a short trip upstate. She said yes.

“It was a five hour drive, but when we got there and I saw the reclaimed wood for the first time, I was so happy,” recalls Patricia. “It was a really big place, and I drove all around because I loved the wood.”

When they returned home, Mauricio asked her what she thought about the experience.

“I told him, ‘Oh my God, I loved it,’” she remembers. “He asked me if I thought it would be a good business for us, and I said, ‘Yes, we have to do it!’”

Building a business

Soon after their trip upstate, they started to look for a space to open a showroom, but it proved to be more difficult than they’d imagined, and it took some time to find a place they could afford.

Eventually, they finally found the perfect location on Main Street in Mount Kisco, and they officially opened New England Antique Lumber in 2015.

During their first year, Patricia continued to clean houses and Mauricio’s main source of income was his construction business. But by year two, Patricia joined him in the showroom and New England Antique Lumber became the more profitable business. However, even today, they continue to provide construction services.

Over the past eight years, the two have worked tirelessly to build their business; Mauricio interacts with the clients, walking them through the process of finding their ideal reclaimed lumber, and Patricia is the bookkeeper and showroom designer.

“Thank God for my wife,” says Mauricio. “She’s why we’ve grown so much. Patricia’s an accountant, and she’s very smart. She’s really helped the business grow.”

The Gueveras’ business has steadily expanded over the years, and they now employ around a dozen people. They also have two warehouses – one in Mount Kisco and one in Bedford Hills – as well as two workshops in New Jersey.  In their showroom, you can also find several pieces that are made from metal or include metal components – these are made in their steel workshop in Brewster. 

But despite their success, Mauricio and Patricia have plenty of stories about the discrimination they’ve faced.

“One time, I was in the back with a client looking for a table, and another customer walked into the store,” Mauricio remembers. “I heard him ask, ‘Who is the owner?’ So I walked over and said ‘I’m the owner, how can I help you?’ He asked again, ‘Can I speak with the owner?’ Again, I said ‘I am the owner, how can I help you?’ After three rounds of this, the client said, ‘Are you sure?’”

Unfortunately, this scenario occurred frequently in the beginning. However now, because many people walk in as a referral and ask for Mauricio, they aren’t surprised that he’s Hispanic.

The nuts and bolts

The Guevaras are on a constant search throughout the northeast to find the best quality wood for their clientele. While some wood comes from barns in upstate New York, they source a large portion of their reclaimed lumber from Pennsylvania Amish country, and they hire Amish woodworkers to create some of their custom furniture. They’ve developed a close relationship with this community, and they rely on this group for their high-quality antique wood and their beautifully detailed and unparalleled craftsmanship.

But it’s Mauricio who designs the furniture they build. If you happen to walk into the showroom when they’re

not busy, you might find Mauricio sketching a new design for a chair or other piece that comes to mind.

And when it comes to their clients, the Gueveras are just as dedicated to them.

“The most important thing for us is to keep our clients happy and give them the best,” Mauricio says.

In their Mount Kisco showroom, customers can look through various pieces of wood that line the back and sides of the building. If they don’t find a piece they like, they may find inspiration for the type of wood they’d like to pursue. Or, they can browse the local warehouses.

Once they’ve selected their wood, the staff will help them design their dream reclaimed lumber piece – be it ceiling beams, a dining room table, a custom-designed chair, etc.

Next, in their New Jersey workshop, if the wood is not completely dry, it goes through a kiln to dry, which, depending on the thickness, can take about six months. Then, it’s either flattened or, usually, sanded down by hand. Afterward, they use epoxy to fill in any imperfections or holes in the piece. While most clients prefer clear epoxy, some select more vibrant colors, like blue, red or green. After a custom-mixed color is added to the lumber, they add their signature touch – a secret finish that is waterproof, wine-proof and UV-ray resistant.

“Even though it’s more expensive, I provide my clients with high-quality furniture and a guarantee,” Mauricio explains. “That’s why clients from ten years ago come back and buy new stuff, and that’s why they recommend us to other people.”

Patricia and Mauricio now regularly work with architects and interior designers throughout Westchester, Manhattan and the Hamptons.

Forging a future

The Guevaras hope to continue to expand their business, with the goal of opening one or two more showrooms.

“We’d like to open a showroom in the Hamptons,” says Patricia. “We have a lot of clients who live out there and travel to Mt. Kisco to visit our showroom.”

Mauricio says a showroom in Manhattan is also on his “To-Do” list. But until that day comes, he’s incredibly proud of the company he’s built. 

“For me, learning happens every day,” Mauricio says, explaining how each client and new experience helps them flourish as business owners. “It’s the immigrant’s dream. I love what I do.”

This article was published in the January/February 2023 print edition of Katonah Connect.

Ava Fleisher
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Ava Fleisher is Connect To's star intern and a local high school student. When she’s not writing, you can find her spending time outdoors, reading, or volunteering in her community. When she grows up, she would like to pursue a career in journalism and travel the world.