Upholstery is a dying art, but there’s still a tremendous need for it, according to Marvin Haftner, who does his part to keep it alive in the mid-Vancouver Island area.
“I was raised in the trade; my father was an upholsterer in Brentwood,” Haftner said of growing up near Victoria.
He jokingly calls it ‘forced child labour’ and by age 20 “I was ready to get out of my father’s shop,” so he looked north and ended up in then-sleepy little Parksville, which didn’t have an upholsterer at the time.
He opened shop on Jensen Avenue in October 1976, and within five years he’d moved to set up shop in his current location at 631 Island Highway East, in what was then a brand new building.
And from there he never looked back, as they say.
“It’s been a fantastic life in Parksville, good people, and the business mostly spread by word of mouth.”
He still loves the upholstery work and imagines himself doing some of it well into retirement, which he hopes is on the horizon, but it has been a shrinking part of his business almost since the beginning.
He said with the price of new furniture and imports constantly dropping, people just don’t invest in repairing old quality products as much any more.
Haftner expanded his business into selling foam about 20 years ago, he said, and it exceeded his then 20-year-old upholstery business within two years.
Today he says foam sales and commercial applications account for about 90 per cent of his business, though he points out that foam sales and installation includes some upholstery work.
Today, the small shop near the orange bridge is the only foam specialty shop in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area and they do all kinds of foam, selling 20 different types, in various densities and firmnesses.
The shop does everything from the usual bed toppers and couch cushions to all kinds of commercial applications from boats, RVs and restaurants, including the renovations at the Qualicum Beach Inn, where he did everything from the patio cushions to the headboards in all the rooms.
Haftner does a fair bit of work on boats, including a fancy 60-foot yacht and plenty of commercial fishing boats.
And along with the fishing boats, he sells a lot of specialized foam to fish farms as filters.
While his first love of upholstery has leveled off, the foam business has grown every single year since he started selling it, he said, and he also said it will make a great turn-key business for someone to take over in the near future.
Westcoast Foam and Mattress specializes in Talalay rubber latex foam, which he said is the best quality foam there is. It’s made from the natural sap of rubber trees.
And while the foam is now the majority of the business, they also have a separate upholstery showroom with more than 25,000 samples, available by appointment only.
While Haftner is starting to think about retirement, so he can get back to upholstery. He said he has no plan to leave the general area, pointing out he raised his family here.
His daughter lives in Nanaimo and his son is just up the road in Courtenay.
Westcoast Foam and Mattress is open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
For more information, stop by at 631 Island Highway East in Parksville, beside Domino’s Pizza, visit www.westcoastfoam.com, or call 250-248-3666.