Cultured Magazine

February/March 2015

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124 CULTURED yler Hays, founder of the high-end furniture showroom BDDW in SoHo, definitely benefits from his short attention span. A Renaissance man in flannel, he makes his own clothing, keeps bees and performs renovations on his workshop in Philadelphia. "It's just an endless, massive array of things I have tons of energy for," he says. Along the way, he has created more than a mere shop, but a communit y of what he calls "other crazies like myself" to not only make and sell products, but also share in the brand's rarified ride. Although he came to New York in 1994 to be an artist, Hays originally worked as a handyman for an architecture firm. He became a general contractor in the '90s, and was always good at making things, including furniture. After a false start operating a showroom on the Lower East S ide, he signed the lease on the vast, soaring Crosby Street space that now houses BDDW. Many of the original pieces he designed for the opening remain best-sellers—including the $3,800 Tripod lamp, which he now sells one of almost every day. Part of the brand's success is its unique corporate culture. For example, there is a meeting every other Tuesday in the store of the Club of Archers and Handmade Bowye rs. It's a natural extension of Hays' Daniel Boone meets Lower Manhattan sensibility, as teams from around the city gather for a friendly archery competition. "I grew up in the deep woods, and I've shot more than my share of things with a bow and arrow. Watching people that have never done it before get a hard on over a projectile that could kill somebody, and that happening in the showroom, well…" BDDW a lso hosts an annual outdoor event for a thousand or so clients and friends in Rhinebeck, New York. Hays describes it as a "semiformal weenie roast," Burning Man meets Gatsby. In addition to a tournament for the archery club, festivities include Jeep rides through the woods, hatchet throwing and shooting fake deer out in a field—in fancy dress. "I sometimes wake up, look at what I'm doing and say, 'Who do you think you are doing all this weird stuff?'" In 2012, Hays bought then-106-year-old M. Crow general store in Lostine, Oregon, near his hometown of Joseph, saving it from going under. "Watching that thing close, it was just like a knife in my gut. As I get older, I get back to my roots and understand where I came from and how that made me." The place is now a combination grocery/hardware store with a high-low mix of offerings—locally grown beef next to potato chips, plus motor oil and fan belts—and, of course, a selection of lovely BDDW-made furniture, housewares, clothing and accessories. Hays' plans for the future do not include slowing down. He's working on kit boats and houses, leather wallets, a denim line, cutlery and more. When I suggest hand-dipping candles from his beeswax, he laughs and says he's done it, but finds it boring. "Things like that frustrate me. It's like sitting on a hillside, staring at the mountains. It gives me a panic attack." Tyler Hays, founder of New York-based furniture showroom BDDW, has been beating the Americana drum long before it was in fashion. With his new venture—a 100-year-old general store in Oregon—Hays proves he's got a lot more noise to make. BY STEPHEN TREFFINGER American Made T PHOTOS COURTESY BDDW

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