The world at your table A light-bulb moment, a map and a jigsaw. With that, Jason Haddad and Luis Barros had the makings of a global hit on their hands
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/11/2018 (1363 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A few weeks prior to Mother’s Day 2017, Jason Haddad, a married father of two, was scratching his head, trying to come up with gift ideas for his wife Ewelina.
Because she was born in Poland, his initial thought was he’d get her something to remind her of her homeland. After scouring the internet for hours, however, he failed to turn up anything close to what he had in mind.
Sure he could have shrugged his shoulders and gone with flowers and a bottle of wine (we hear Adoria Vineyards in southwest Poland makes a nice Pinot Noir). Instead Haddad, founder of Creative Design Contractors, a Winnipeg firm specializing in kitchen and bathroom renos, put on his thinking cap by using a jigsaw to cut a pre-stenciled piece of wood into the shape of Poland. He then sanded and stained it, transforming it into a one-of-a-kind piece of wall décor.
“She fell in love with it right away,” he says, seated in a bustling Corydon Avenue café. “So much so that a few days later, when she was still going on about how cool it was, I started thinking, you know, there are close to 200 countries in the world. Maybe there’s an opportunity to turn this into a business of some kind.”
World Table Company, which Haddad runs with his partner Luis Barros, made its official debut in December 2017, a few weeks before Christmas. The pair didn’t have to wait long to find out they had the makings of a global hit on their hands. Soon after launching their website, they were contacted by a Winnipegger interested in purchasing a coffee table in the shape of Italy for his father-in-law, a native of Toritto, a picturesque town located about 20 kilometres from the Adriatic Sea.
“The day the table was ready, he asked if I could come with him to give it to his father-in-law,” Haddad says. “We went to his place of work and no word of a lie, as soon as he spotted the marker indicating where his hometown is he started tearing up. Then, after being told I was the person responsible, he came over and gave me a big hug. That’s when it really hit home; that we’re not just selling furniture, we’re selling people’s lives… their family history.”
Haddad’s and Barros’s line of merchandise — besides their namesake pieces, World Table Company also turns out country-shaped cheese trays, wall plaques and bamboo cutting boards — are manufactured in a plant on McPhillips Street. Each table takes approximately 10 hours to build, the bulk of which involves programming a computer-controlled router to cut the boards into the precise, intricate form of whatever nation is being reproduced.
“It wasn’t all that easy at first as Luis and I had to come up with a way to make the tables, which are about an inch and a quarter thick, more durable than your average coffee or end table as every country has parts that stick out from the mainland,” he says. “People have worried if they bump into them there goes Florida or whatever but no, we’ve tested them and they’re definitely not going to fall apart on you.” (That said, while World Table Company’s products are warrantied against defects, they’re not guaranteed against annexation.)
Table-wise, interested parties can choose from three types of wood — maple, oak and walnut — and from five different stain colours. They can also indicate what sort of legs they prefer: sleek-looking, metal hairpin legs (black, silver or white) or traditional wooden ones, all of which are built in-house.
While World Table Company is predominantly an online entity for now — besides their website and Etsy store, you can also order their products from Wayfair, an American e-commerce giant that sells over 10 million home furnishing items from some 10,000 suppliers — there are a couple places in Winnipeg where you can get a closer look at their goods, including Made Here, situated in the underground concourse beneath the Richardson Building, and Kalyna Ukrainian Book and Gift Shop, 952 Main St.
Shelley Greschuk sits on the board of the latter locale. She met Haddad at a Scattered Seeds market in October where World Table Company was a featured vendor.
“He had five or six tables on display, including a Ukraine one, and I thought well, isn’t that interesting,” Greschuk says over the phone. “We started talking and even though it’s only been about a month since our conversation, the plan is to offer some stuff of theirs that will be exclusive to our store, such as Christmas ornaments. Plus we’ll have a Ukraine table on display at all times that customers will be able to see and decide if that’s something they’re interested in.”
To date, World Table Company has filled orders — from as far away as Dubai and Australia — for tables in the shape of 15 separate countries, India, China and the true north, strong and free proving to be the most popular thus far. Multi-island nations such as New Zealand and the Bahamas present a bit of a problem — which regions do you include and which do you leave out, he asks rhetorically — but he and Barros are currently working on a project that should appeal to one of Winnipeg’s largest ethnic communities.
“Winnipeg’s Filipino population keeps growing and growing and everyone associated with it is very proud of where they’re from,” he says, noting he spent a week this past summer showing off tables at Folklorama’s Polish pavilion, where his wife volunteers, and is mapping out a strategy to hit as many pavilions as possible, next August. “With that in mind, we’re developing a new style of table that should be ready to go in a matter of weeks. Without giving away too much, I’ll just say it’s a really neat concept we’re pretty sure is going to go over well with our Filipino friends.”
In addition to countries, provinces and states — last week they fielded a request for a table shaped like Idaho, days after they completed one patterned after Alaska — Haddad and Barros also accept custom orders for other geographic features. For example, a person recently reached out to them, hoping they could duplicate a lake in northern Ontario where his family has owned a cottage for decades. They were able to, no problem, but only after they were sent a link to the body of water in question which, because it was so tiny and remote, they couldn’t locate on a map.
“One of the nicer custom orders we’ve done was for a couple, each of whom is originally from a different region in Africa but who met here in Winnipeg,” Haddad says. “For that one we made a piece of wall art in the shape of the African continent, with each of their home provinces highlighted and the words ‘love connection’ written at the bottom.”
Lastly, because this writer was born in the province immediately west of Manitoba, we couldn’t let Haddad go without asking him whether anybody out there has requested a Saskatchewan table yet.
“It’s funny, we did do one (table) in the shape of Saskatchewan and Manitoba joined together as one but no, no requests for Saskatchewan on its own,” he says. “I have joked however that if somebody ever wants one, in order to save a bit of time, we could probably just go out and buy a rectangular piece of wood, slap some legs on it and call it a day.”