In 1984, Peter and Carolyn Meznar started up Meznar Furniture – a family business with a focus on craftsmanship and the personal touch. Fast forward 32 years and the Gawler-based business still personifies the theme ‘from our hands to your home’ in every one of its undertakings.
Inspired by his father Rudi Meznar, Peter and his wife Carolyn began manufacturing solid timber furniture in 1984 – employing only one apprentice, a number which has since grown to six.
Three years ago, Meznar Furniture hit an important milestone when it opened up a second store in Hyde Park, Adelaide – building on its 3,000 metre square factory and its original store in Gawler, South Australia. The company now employs 28 people in the factory and six employees between the two stores.
Peter and Carolyn’s 19-year-old son Joe Meznar has worked for the company in various capacities while at school and since leaving school, and says the business was always a mainstay of his upbringing.
“Timber and furniture has been in the family for a while. My grandfather was a cabinetmaker, so there’s a bit of history there. When we first started, however, my dad literally made the furniture, sold the furniture and delivered it,” Joe says.
Although Joe wanted to be a policeman growing up, he started considering his family’s timber business as a viable career pathway after he began excelling at woodwork in school – building on the part-time work that he was already doing at the family business.
“I loved woodwork and consistently achieved As. That’s when I really started to find my appreciation for timber.”
Joe says his parents never pressured him to get involved in the family business, and that it was always ultimately his choice to partake in it. This same courtesy was extended to all of Joe’s siblings, with his sister currently working at Channel 7 and his brother employed at a retirement home.
After Year 12, Joe started working at the Meznar Furniture factory in 2003 – a stint that lasted five years. From there, he went on to work at the retail storefront, after which he returned to the factory to manage it for a year.
Each experience imbued Joe with a healthy regard for every facet of the business.
“From working in the factory and running the factory to go back into the shop, you learn a lot more and you can explain a lot more to customers.
“This year, I’ve been back in the shop and I run the Gawler store. So I’ve had a bit of experience in everything, but I started with the basics.”
The company is still very much a family business, with Peter and Carolyn still involved in selling and marketing the timber products.
“Dad does a bit of product development too, so he comes up with the ideas and is very switched on in that regard. He can see a picture in his mind and run with it.”
Solid timber and customer service key
The company’s specialisation lies in its ‘solid timber’ furniture.
“We use a majority of Australian timbers and a bit of New Zealand timber. We don’t like to cut corners or compromise in any way in our use of solid hardwood timbers,” Joe says.
This mentality has set Meznar Furniture apart from its larger competitors, despite operating as a small-scale independent family-owned business.
“Because we haven’t compromised with anything coming from offshore, we are in a unique spot. More and more people are becoming aware of the traditional quality of timber and more and more people are wanting that,” Joe says.
“They want to purchase something once and have it last a long time.”
The feedback from customers has been consistently positive. Joe says Meznar Furniture gets a lot of repeat customers who are intent on adding to their current Meznar collection.
“We can do that because everything is made right here. If they buy a couple of pieces originally, they can match it with our furniture in the future.”
High staff morale
Apart from the products it manufacturers, Meznar Furniture takes pride in the career progression opportunities it offers its employees and its low turnover of staff – meaning talent within the company has been honed over several years of employment.
“For example, our production manager Ben has worked with us since 2002, so he has learnt a lot in his time here. Between him and a few of the other guys working within that traditional structure, there has been constant training and re-training.”
Meznar Furniture hire a healthy 50/50 mix of people who have had prior experience in making timber furniture and high school graduates.
“We do like to give guys and girls out of school the opportunity they want to try something new, and not many places offer that these days,” Joe says.
According to Joe, all the staff that have worked for Meznar Furniture over the years share the same penchant for timber.
“Everyone is pretty open with each other and they enjoy the environment that they’re in. I guess it just comes back to that same thing – they share the passion.
“What we try to instil in anyone new is: have that passion and belief in handcrafted solid timber furniture.”
Eye to the future
Having been in the market since 1984, Meznar Furniture will celebrate its 32nd anniversary this year. With three decades having lapsed since its inception, the Meznar family has constantly had to rethink the way they do things.
New machines and techniques – such as CNC technology – are revolutionising the way the company conducts business. The CNC came in a few years after Joe started working in the factory during his first stint there.
“The CNC is a computerised overhead router. It improves the machining process, saves a lot of time and is very precise.”
The timber industry is notorious for producing a lot of waste, which makes disposal a crucial issue for many manufacturers.
The Meznar family resolved this issue by installing a new dust extractor system with a briquette machine at their new factory.
“Literally all the sawdust now gets compacted to make firewood. So something that was a waste product a few years ago now has another use.”
The Meznar family then sells the firewood, as an adjunct to its main business of manufacturing and selling timber furniture – resulting in an additional revenue stream.
Further, Joe says keeping up with the advent of the internet – something that wasn’t part of everyday life when the business started up in 1984 – is something he and his parents constantly have to keep front of mind.
“Because the way the world’s changing – there’s the internet and all that goes with it – keeping up with the trends and staying ahead of them has been a big part of the business.”
Regardless, quality is something that the Meznar Furniture’s business model never strays far from. Looking to the future, Joe looks forward to manufacturing high quality furniture for the Meznar Furniture’s loyal customer base and continuing the high level of artistry the company practices with timber.
“The rough sawn timber we get into the factory comes out the other end as beautiful, handcrafted furniture. We really enjoy the hands-on process and seeing the end result.”