Business Focus: The Upholstery Room


Business-David-SmilingThe Upholstery Room, Inc. is a five-man workhouse of artists and repairmen, furniture rejuvenators, airplane restorers, restaurant refreshers, RV renovators, custom hot rod creators—and more.  For 17 years, owner David Fonseca has carried on the family tradition of custom and traditional upholstery work that began a generation ago in Mexico.  Trained by their father, he and brothers Mike and Joe form a trio of multi-talented upholstery specialists operating in Conroe and Huntsville. Mike owns Conroe Upholstery and specializes in furniture work, Joe focuses on boats and autos at Classic Upholstery (also in Conroe), and David runs The Upholstery Room, Inc. in Huntsville, offering services in all areas.

David Fonseca’s business serves customers throughout Texas, and his masterpieces grace homes, travel stylishly on road and water, win classic car shows, and take to the skies. “We are much more than a traditional furniture upholstery shop,” David says.  “We work with automobiles, RVs, boats and even airplanes.  I’m proud to say we do all work on site with a fast turnaround time.”

Fonseca takes pride in each job, and customers come from Huntsville and Walker County, Lake Livingston, Lake Conroe, and even Houston and The Woodlands seeking his talents.  They arrive with furniture from their homes, lakeside houses, and hunting cabins. “Some of our out-of-town customers also bring me their boats,” David says.  “We use specific outdoor and marine materials for this work, and can do anything you want inside a boat or a car.  My dad taught us to do everything; we are not limited to furniture.”

Business-SowingThis family business got its start when Jose Fonseca, the brothers’ father, began learning upholstery work at age 11 in Mexico.  At age 18, he moved to Houston and then Conroe, eventually starting his own family and Conroe Upholstery in the early 1970s.  A few years later, David was born.

“We were the second Hispanic family in Conroe,” remembers David, who is fluent in English and Spanish and now lives in Willis.  David and his brothers didn’t have a choice about working in the Conroe shop, so he began learning the trade after school each day and earned his first wages.

As a teenager, however, he was still not convinced he wanted to be part of the family business. He signed up for four years in the U.S. Marine Corps after graduation from Conroe High School.  When it was time to come home, he found himself missing his family and ready to take up the upholstery trade in a new shop.

Today David is owner, salesman, customer service representative, hands-on craftsman, upholsterer, advertiser, deliveryman, and enthusiastic trainer.  Located a minute from Huntsville’s town square, The Upholstery Room greets visitors with a view of sample books, bolts of trim, and rows of projects—couches, recliners, dining room chairs, and even restaurant benches—waiting for suede, cowhide, tweed, vinyl or velvet.

Business-Cowhide-ReclinerA spacious workshop houses custom stitching, button making, automotive repair, and welding work.  Staple and nail guns punctuate the air, and an answering machine stays busy. David greets customers entering the store, as Sergio, one of the shop employees, comes to the front for quick instruction. Sergio works in the workshop alongside Vernon, who takes care of furniture assignments; Antonio, who specializes in custom hot rod work; and Eric, who deals with car lot business and dealership repairs.

David gives a quick tour of his shop, inspecting a western-style leather chair. “I also really like creating custom furniture and using materials like cowhide, which is very popular today. I want customers to be ecstatic about their finished furniture!” He moves to the back of the shop where automotive work is underway.

Business-Car“Local car lots bring in autos to be re-upholstered, usually in leather,” David says.  “It’s more affordable than it used to be.  We take care of upholstery for 22 dealerships and 18 car lots.  We also serve customers like Cox Cable, Entergy, the City of Huntsville, Sam Houston State University, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Texas Department of Transportation. We handle their auto repairs and warranty work and even work on furniture for some of them.”

“The Upholstery Room does a lot of automotive convertible tops,” says David, who attended hydraulics and electronics training with Antonio. “We’re one of the few shops where you can bring in a convertible top, and it will come out perfect. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Lamborghini, a Porsche, or a Mustang—it will come out perfect with a three-year warranty.”

Business-Red-FordDavid Fonseca has also found what makes him most happy in a business that daily requires patience, experience, ingenuity and creativity:  “Hot rods!” While he enjoys the creative challenge of furniture upholstery work, his heart belongs to fast cars and custom hot rod designs, which he creates for the shop.  He points out a flame-red ‘41 Ford in the back of the shop, trunk flung wide to reveal detailed interior touches. Ford seats stacked nearby sport new tan leather, and David’s enthusiasm is contagious. “Even on this Ford we’re doing things we’ve never done before —taking it to the next level. We’re always trying to outdo ourselves. I love when someone brings me a car with literally nothing in it and it comes out a show car!

“When there’s a Huntsville Cruisers show, I find I’ve done about 90 percent of the cars, designing most of the hot rods,” he says.  “I’ve won a couple of awards, and this creative aspect keeps me going. I don’t want to copy or duplicate work; every car has to have its own touch.” His clients’ cars have also been displayed at the Houston AutoRama and in Austin and Dallas shows, often winning awards.

Business-ChairBeyond the workshop, The Upholstery Room’s biggest accomplishments take place in cooperation with the Bruce Brothers Huntsville Regional Airport. David says the shop works on as many as 10 airplanes each year, replacing worn carpet, headliners, seats, and panels with custom pieces. “The owners fly into the airport, and we meet there to take the planes apart,” he says.  “We bring the parts back to the shop and later reassemble the plane at the airport.  I’ve trained to work inside airplanes, so it takes me anywhere from a month or two to re-do a four-passenger plane, or two to three months for a 16-passenger plane, depending on the level of customization.”

Business-Chair-2The Upholstery Room’s customers may drive, fly, or walk in, but David is working to reach new ones.   While “about 90 percent of Upholstery Room advertising comes from happy customers referring others,” David has enlisted help to update the shop’s website and reach clients via social networking.

Though looking to the future, David Fonseca and The Upholstery Room craftsmen haven’t forgotten their beginnings.  Jose Fonseca, remembered as a strict and knowledgeable taskmaster (but now retired from upholstery work), still likes to come by the shop. “He wants to see what we’re working on, especially the cars,” David says. “He’ll take pictures and brag to his friends about the hot rods in his sons’ shops.  It’s work he didn’t get to do, but he’s still taking pride in it!  Of course, he instilled the dedication and workmanship that are still the foundation of our business.”


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