BENICIA, Calif. - In a year when the pandemic wiped out many jobs, a North Bay couple has carved out a new career as furniture makers.
"It brings me joy working on tables and using my creative energies," said Shelly Lucido, "and that's not something I've experienced in jobs before."
Lucido and husband Chris were both laid off from their jobs early in the economic shutdown.
He worked in marketing for a home improvement company and she sold pizza company franchises.
"We were stuck at home like everybody else," said Shelly, recalling how she decided to take on a woodworking project, using childhood skills taught by her father.
She took the end caps of a wooden industrial spool used for heavy-gauge cable or wire and crafted two tables.
Shelly kept one and was surprised at how swiftly the other one sold on Facebook marketplace.
The idea grew from there.
"We are both over 50 and thought no one wants to hire us, so why not try this?"
The occasional hobby became a business, christened Industrial Chic Designs.
"She's the designer and I do the sanding," said Chris Lucido, " but I'm not a power tool guy so I would never have envisioned this, never in my wildest dreams."
Chris has the tough task of sourcing the surplus spools and acquiring them before they end up in landfills.
He brings them to a warehouse space in Benicia, where they are broken up, and the round ends are sanded and stained.
The Lucido's project comes as there is a high demand for outdoor furniture, both at home and at restaurants.
They have sold more than 100 tables, starting at about $150 for the smallest size up to $800 for the largest.
"We like to help local businesses and be sustainable," said Alex Ortiz, manager of a Super Duper Burger restaurant in San Francisco, which purchased five of the repurposed tables.
"What I like most is they are wood but they're lightweight, putting them in and out every day, and they're also durable."
The couple is thrilled with the response and expanding into table shapes and sizes.
"We're not getting rich but we're making a living so far," said Shelly, expressing gratitude to those who supported them from the start.
Their first big order came from a restaurant in Petaluma.
"I found them online so I ordered 9 tables right away because I thought they were so cute," said Amiee D' Maris, owner of April Pantry, which specializes in meals that are local and handcrafted.
The rustic tables had a similar appeal.
"I didn't really know it at the time that we were their very first customer," says D'Maris, recalling that she picked up her tables in the Lucido's Vallejo backyard.
"They said they had just lost their jobs and were doing this as a little side-hustle to make extra money."
They all shared a common spirit since D'Maris had just signed a five-year lease for her new cafe as COVID-19 started to emerge.
She remained resilient, opened in May, and has been open in some capacity ever since.
"Everyone said I was crazy but what am I going to do?" said D'Maris. "People still need to eat, so I'm going to go to work and see if people come in, I'm just going to keep going."
The Lucidos say they have a whole new appreciation for small businesses now that they have started one.
"We have created a new career out of such terrible times," said Shelly, "and it's been awesome, I'm the happiest I've ever been."
Her advice to those whose careers have collapsed?
Consider it a possible opportunity.
"Everybody has a gift, something they can do and if your heart is calling you to try, go for it, what have you got to lose?"