Skilled Craftsmen at Work: Our In-House Upholsterer
A Talented Artisan Who Has Become Part of the Fabric that is The Manor
Along craftsmen’s row, a quaint series of workshops built as part of an all-brick cottage house on the grounds of The Manor, hang “shingles” declaring the intended purpose for each space and the trade to which inhabiting craftsmen belong. The shops are reminiscent of an earlier age when most were known by their particular trade and goods were made by hand to serve the local village; the tradition of which The Manor has worked to carry on in support of the extensive care and skilled workmanship needed to maintain the grandeur of the historic property. If, on your next visit to The Manor, you happen upon the shops and peek into the doorway beneath the sign that reads “upholstering”, you might just find Patricio Guzman attending to a piece of antique furniture propped upon his workbench.
More like family by now than employee, Mr. Guzman has been keeping The Manor’s appurtenances well-covered in fine fabrics for decades. If you’ve ever sat in a chair at The Manor, then you’ve experienced his handiwork. Whether in The Dome or the dining room, a banquet chair or a baroque settee, Mr. Guzman has upholstered it.
Beginning his career at The Manor in 1971, first as a server as well an assistant to the owner Harry Knowles, Mr. Guzman soon found himself with a talent and a trade he hadn’t before considered. Witness to many of The Manor’s finer furnishings being shipped out for repair or recovering at great expense with less than impressive results, Mr. Guzman couldn’t help but to have an “I could do that” impulse. Always one to look out for The Manor’s best interests, and one of the many proactive thinkers who have helped make the venue’s reputation for perfection, he consulted with Mr. Knowles on letting him learn the craft of upholstery and take on a piece or two here or there, repairing and recovering some of The Manor’s furniture.
As chair led to chair and projects–along with his skills–grew, he soon found himself taking over a larger shop and being called-on to fulfill all of the furniture upholstery needs of The Manor. He quickly became an example of talent and enthusiasm finding opportunity. Mr. Guzman, however, credits The Manor’s owner with an unwavering trust in him to take a chance, fostering all his employees’ growth within the business, encouraging their improvement, and providing the resources necessary to do whatever was needed…not just to do it, but to do it well.
After over 45 years since his start at The Manor, Mr. Guzman has honed his skills and expanded the scope of his work to include the venue’s sister properties of Highlawn Pavilion, Pleasantdale Chateau, and Ram’s Head Inn. With his recent work renewing antique pieces to complement the décor of The Manor’s many newly renovated rooms, it has stayed consistently rare to find his shop without some type of chair in some stage of repair. He has joked that by the time he completes every project for which he planned, it is time to start again revitalizing the items he had crossed off the top of his list.
But his light touch and eye for detail with delicate, intricate pieces and an ability to shape and fit beautiful fabrics on age-old furnishings has enabled The Manor to revive antique pieces to be both visually impressive and comfortable objects of form and function.
Very few places exist–and even more rarely so, restaurants and event venues–where skilled artisans are valued enough that the business is willing and able to invest in creating an environment where they can flourish as a holistic part of a larger business—where trades of the hand are integral to the ethos of the venue. And where their skills can shine to bring added quality, character and charm to the environment that guests experience.
In reflecting on his time at The Manor, even though he has lived it across the decades, Mr. Guzman still almost shakes his head in amazement all the unique skills of so many individuals–from bakers, to carpenters, to an in-house laundry, to the gardeners who maintain the expansive grounds—all employed directly by The Manor just to create a singular overarching experience for a guest dining with us for two hours, or an attendee of one of our weddings. It is a massive undertaking, but one that does not lose sight of the importance of the individual in making the whole better than the sum of its parts.
What Mr. Guzman is too humble to also contemplate is just how much value he personally has added to the experience of our guests as well. We appreciate his loyalty and talent, as well the passions of countless unnamed contributors who strive just as hard at their own craft. The best reward for their efforts is when we notice our guests stop to admire some detail or another throughout The Manor and guess with each other how it was done. In most instances the answer to the question not asked is, “Yes, it was done by hand, it is real, and it did take a lot of time, effort, and skill to do it.” For those of you have noticed, we thank you. And for those who have simply enjoyed your experience at The Manor, whether any detail stood out or not, your satisfaction is reward enough. Because that is what Mr. Guzman–and all of us at The Manor–do it for.