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Upholstery a viable business in Settlement

Published:Saturday | May 19, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Dave Lindo, Gleaner Writer

SETTLEMENT, Manchester:REGINALD BARRETT has for 34 years made a living as an upholsterer using his creative mind and his hands to make beautiful furniture for the comfort and pleasure of his many customers, both locally and overseas.

Barrett was born in Kingston but went to live in the district of Settlement from a very young age.

At age 17, he developed a liking for repairing settees and making cushions. "It's just a gift I got from God. Nobody taught me the trade. I started when I was a schoolboy," he said. "I got practice working on things like my mother's settees, people's car seats, and things like those."

After a while, Barrett decided to go into the upholstering business full time. "The more I did it, the more my love grew for it, so I set up a shop and put all my energy and resources into it, and I have no regrets for doing that."

Due to his remarkable work, Barrett became one of the best in the business in Manchester, with people from all over coming to his workshop in Settlement. "I do a variety of things - reconditioning and making settees, hassocks, cushions, and upholstering for motor vehicle seats. I also make bags, purses, and many more things," Barrett said.

He added: "You know the mark of your work is what carries you through. People who have been pleased with my work tell others, so I get a lot of work. I spent 10 years living in Florida doing the same thing, but I decided to come back home and continue my work here."

Barrett said that the upholstering business is a thriving one: "You can make a good living from the trade. You have people who come and buy my hassocks to sell back. There are those who order their settees or carry their old ones to be reconditioned because it is much too expensive to buy these items in the big establishments, and sometimes the ones from those places don't last as long."

He made the point that there is a strong demand overseas for locally made furniture. "People love our products. They say they are different than what they have seen overseas and stronger as well," Barrett disclosed.

"Just this week, I made some hassocks for a client in Georgia, United States. We could earn more if more opportunities were there to market our products on the international scene," he said.

Barrett is playing his part in keeping the art of upholstering alive by passing on his knowledge to the youth. "I have taught the trade to quite a number of youngsters in the area and they have gone on to start their own businesses," he disclosed. "You have youth who are interested in the trade because they see that it is a viable business, and they can make a living from it."