Andrew Watson

Furniture Designer, Andrew Watson is passionate about building furniture and community.  Inside a warehouse in Seminole Heights he brings people together in an inspired world where hand-crafted furniture, art, design and people collide.  Photographed at BUILT in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa.

Tell us about BUILT.  How did you get started?  BUILT is a hand-crafted furniture company.  I have been around wood all my life.  My father did woodworking as a hobby.  I started my career in rough carpentry and then moved on to finished carpentry and cabinet making at a large architectural millwork company.  On the side I would design and build furniture that I liked.  People started asking me to make furniture for them.  I began to realize that I couldn’t work full-time and do this too.  So BUILT was something I had to do in order to follow my passion.  In that sense it was an easy transition to starting my own company.  I took the plunge and got this space in January 2013.  Right now we are fortunate to be in a growth spurt. I have just partnered with Chris Stone and we now have an apprentice.  We are trying to grow appropriately.  Eventually we plan to have our own line of furniture.

Under the same roof is a gallery called Workspace.  What makes it different from other art spaces?  Workspace is a 300 square foot gallery headed by Chris Kelly. I’m not sure what makes it different from other spaces, except that it’s what we want it to be. It’s cozy. It’s approachable. It’s for Tampa’s creative class and we want it to be fun. It’s also one more way for us engage with our community. Our monthly events attract 200-300 people and are a great way to support local artists and meet like-minded people.

Your latest venture is the Back Forty.  Yes, Back Forty is a new retail space that my partner Chris Kelly and I are opening. We are focusing our efforts and offerings on well made, affordable furniture. We are pairing handmade home goods and furniture with Mid Century classics and rare treasures. Ultimately, Back Forty is a creative outlet for us and other local makers. Back Forty is open on Saturdays from 9am-6pm.

You’re building community as well as furniture.  What hopes and vision do you have for that?  We hope it never ends!  We have a cross-pollination happening here with a gallery, design studio and retail outlet that is pretty unique.  Everyone involved, Chris Kelly, Chris Stone and myself are all excited and motivated. At BUILT we are offering an alternative to the mass produced products by making quality goods accessible.  At both Workspace and Back Forty we are presenting opportunities for creatives, makers and locals alike.

What has surprised you most as an entrepreneur and first-time business owner?  Starting a business is totally doable.  Sure, being a business owner is full of hurdles and complications, but if you want something bad enough there is always a way.  Starting a business is a hundred little things, not one insurmountable task.

How did you end up in Seminole Heights?  My wife Lindsay and I had just moved back to Tampa from Hawaii and, honestly, it was the first place we looked.  We knew we wanted a house and a yard for a garden and our puppy, Katy.  We both love Craftsmen bungalows, realized it is up-and-coming and saw its potential as a place to live and to start a business.

Seminole Heights is getting hotter by the day.  Tell us something about it that we don’t already know.  Everyone knows the food in these parts is fantastic.  What you might not know is how down-to-earth the owners are. Very friendly and caring.  Every dish tastes like passion and boy is that good.

When you break away from Built what do you like to do?  Surfing.

Where might we find you hanging out on a Saturday night?  Rooster & the Till– if you haven’t, you aughta.

What is your favorite wood?  Walnut.

What are your favorite objects in your workshop?  My planes and chisel.  Really good tools make a difference.

How has Tampa become part of your identity?  Tampa has offered me a home and fantastic friendships.  I’ve moved around a lot so it feels good to have a place to call home.  The more I travel the more I love Tampa.  Other places have reached a plateau, Tampa is moving and grooving and so am I!

What’s the best advice you have ever gotten?  Recently, and I’m paraphrasing, but it’s that there is a tremendous amount of value in letting a professional do a professional job.  For instance, I don’t know anything accounting, so I hired an accountant to take care of that aspect of my business.  My time is super valuable to me and is best spent doing what I love and what I’m best at.

Lastly, talk a little bit about the creative class in Tampa Bay.  Why do you stay here?  What are the opportunities?  What are the needs?  I stay because I like it here.  As an adult, I lived in Hawaii for a while and it’s certainly beautiful, but the day-to-day is like anywhere else and it’s tougher to get stuff done in the middle of the ocean.  Tampa is going through a little boom right now, so plenty of opportunities are available.  Compared to many other cities, it’s relatively inexpensive to start a business and create your own opportunity.  We need more people taking risks for what they believe in, and then sticking around when they’re successful.
BUILT on Facebook
Workspace on Facebook
Back Forty on Facebook
4501 N Florida Ave.
Tampa, Florida 33603