We live and work in the wilds of the Mayenne countryside on the border of the Loire Valley, France. And I relish all the contact I have with the customers of our handmade oak furniture business. Most of our clients come to us through our website, some know exactly what they want and don’t need much from me. More often than not though, I end up spending quite a bit of time with a client, even if it is only by email – discussing design, preparing and altering drawings, advising and giving confidence to ideas. I love this part of my job and I get a great sense of satisfaction from building a rapport with each one.
Most of our customers are in the UK and generally Ezra will take time out of the workshop to make the furniture deliveries in person. Or pass the furniture on to one of our trusted couriers to deliver for us. When it came to deliver some of our handmade oak dining chairs to a client 600 km away in France, we couldn’t find a courier for love nor money. And so rather than losing custom, we offered to do the delivery ourselves. As long as our costs were covered, let’s do it, even if it means two days out of the workshop…..why not?
The week before any delivery is always a bit nail-biting. Working to a deadline holds a sense dread of something unforeseen cropping up, but we do love the excitement of the finish. And, of course, the endless joy of pleasing another customer. The leather for these dining chairs arrived ridiculously late, so that was the nail-biting part. But happily everything else fell into place. The final quality control checks were made, paperwork organised, auberge booked and routes planned. And yes, one last detail….the organisation of the no means small, but delightful task of looking after our 4 children for 24 hours whilst we are away.
So the journey began. Actually, seven hours in the car travelling to the Tarn et Garonne passed not too unpleasantly…apart from the last hour, which should have been 10 minutes, but for a convoi exceptionnel carrying a yacht! We admired the scenery…vine yard after vine yard, beautiful soft rolling hills, terracotta roofs and dazzling white stone of the masonry. It got more beautiful the nearer we travelled. Finally we arrived at the home of our clients, a secret house tucked away in gorgeous spot, not a neighbour to be seen. It was rather satisfying to be able to personally place our chairs around the 17th century dining table that they were made for.
Our customers were delighted. In fact so delighted that we were invited that evening to dine in their restaurant La Table des 3 Chevalièrs which just so happened to be in the medieval hilltop town of Lauzerte, where we had booked to stay the night. And what a delight that was! La Table 3 Chevaliers is located in the central square of Lauzerte. The interior has been beautifully restored with understated taste of the owners, the staff attentive to just the right degree, and the food a taste sensation. The chef happens to be the son of the owner, so a family business that we can relate to and we passed a really wonderful evening getting to know our clients a little better. How lucky were we!
After dinner, we had a quick night cap in a bar not far from our hotel, the owner of which after speaking to us for a while in perfect French began explaining how she would add the froth to Ezras guiness with a Scottish accent!? The next morning we woke to an amazing view from our hotel window, the perfect start to market day in Lauzerte.
Fresh from a good night, we meandered the steep streets of this perfectly preserved once roman settlement. We were inspired to find several artists and crafts people occupying gallery and workshop spaces, and learned that Lauzerte is a much loved stop on the major pilgrim routes through France. Really quite sad to leave, this was just a teasing glimpse of what else could be discovered down this way, but the children needed us back, so off we went. No convoi exceptionnel this time thankfully!
We could have said no to delivering just one order such a long way – it would take time out of our busy work schedule, not to mention the exhaustion of putting everything in place just to get out of the door and leave our children in capable hands. But I am so glad we didn’t!
This trip became an opportunity to get away, to brush the dust off from the Makers workshop…scrub up and take only the third break in 10 years by ourselves! We discovered a new part of France that we very much want to go back to and made friends and contacts that we would not otherwise have made. I am so pleased we made the effort. And the next delivery in France will definitely be used as an opportunity for our second, maybe slightly extended French adventure.
Makers Bespoke Furniture