Some of the biggest names in North American sports have relaxed on chairs custom-built by the Hampton brothers in Headingley.
Kerry and Kevin Hampton have patents for Jersey Chairs, an original piece of furniture they first created in 2004 as a raffle item to raise money for a young man battling cancer.
Kevin Hampton said he knew Regina Pats alumnus Todd Davison through his sons’ sports teams. After Davison’s cancer diagnosis, a social was organized to help cover travel costs for his family, and Kevin and Kerry decided to use one of Davison’s hockey jerseys to cover a chair.
This raffle item alone raised almost $3,000, and the winner gave the chair to Davison.
The popularity of this original design led the Hamptons to cover two more chairs in Wayne Gretzky and Winnipeg Falcons jerseys and place them in the front window of their showroom, then located in Winnipeg. This, in turn, led to a customized Manitoba Moose chair made for team owner Mark Chipman.
They decided to take a chair to a sports show in Las Vegas in early 2005 and were overwhelmed by the positive reaction they received.
"We were a little unprepared for the attention," Kevin said. At that point, they realized they needed to patent their design and they formed Jersey Chair Co.
Since that time, they have created customized chairs for celebrities such as Don Cherry and Walter Gretzky. Some are autographed by team members and given as retirement gifts or used in charity raffles. Two of their chairs have been shipped to Europe by NHL players.
Kerry said while most of the chairs, which sell for approximately $1,000, are covered with a jersey that the buyer provides, he has collected an assortment of hard-to-find jerseys.
They have a seamstress on staff who is able to embroider names and dates, as well as stitch on decals, to further customize a jersey used to cover a chair. The chair itself is constructed and upholstered in the Hamptons’ workshop on their property in Headingley.
The brothers also operate Hampton Interiors, a business started in Charleswood by their father. He supplied custom upholstery for furniture designers at Eaton’s and The Bay.
After their father’s death in 1980, their older brother ran the business, with Kevin, then Kerry, learning how to construct and upholster furniture. The majority of their business comes through local interior decorators who place orders for wealthy clients. About one-third of their work is reupholstery, often for chairs and couches they originally built.
"We don’t advertise at all and we’re always two to three months behind in our orders," Kerry said.
Their high-end furnishings start with birch frames, which are built to be long-lasting, then covered with high-quality foam, and finally with sturdy fabric.
"We don’t cut corners," Kerry said, adding that the ready-made couches and chairs for sale in Ikea don’t offer any competition for their custom-built items.
"We take care of our customers. There is a reason they come to us," he said.
As well as their top-end products, the brothers’ business benefits from the fact that there aren’t many upholstery companies operating in the Winnipeg area. While Kerry vows he will keep working for many more years, neither has a child interested in learning the family business.
Kerry said they’d welcome anyone who really has a desire to learn from them.
Their business is located on the west side of Headingley in an addition built onto Kerry’s house. A long-time Headingley resident, Kerry said they wanted to move out of the city and found that the RM of Headingley supports businesses through its lower tax structure.