For years, the dusty street corner in front of the Shell gas station at the entrance to Granada was Francisco Rodríguez’s makeshift “showroom.” On weekends, the master craftsman would lug his hand-carved, ornately engraved desks, decorative benches, and other restored and replicated antique furniture pieces to the street corner in hopes of making a sale.
Many passersby oohed and ahhed at the sight of the elegant, colonial-style furniture, but few people actually stopped to purchase anything. After all, a 9-foot, double-door wardrobe doesn’t make for an easy impulse buy for people driving by in a 12-foot Yaris. But Rodríguez had no money to rent a showroom and no access to financing, so his options were limited to the curbside – at least until the police came by and ordered him to leave.
Despite the financial and physical obstacles, Rodríguez was determined to continue the family line of work, using the same traditional techniques and carpenter’s tools handed down to him from his grandfather.
The Nica Times first caught up with Rodríguez in 2007, as he was trying to sell his furniture on the side of the road. The elaborately detailed pieces, each made with a careful eye and finish, contrasted starkly with the grungy street scene of wind-tumbled garbage and wandering street dogs.
Rodríguez, however, seemed above it all, as he calmly read his book and handed out his phone number to admiring motorists who would stop long enough to roll down their windows and comment on his craft.
“Many people view making furniture as a way to get paid, but I don’t view this as just a job,” he said in a 2007 interview. “I take great satisfaction in my work. I view it as part of myself. Making furniture is a way of making yourself immortal, because part of me is goes into every piece I make. And who knows how long it will last after I’m gone.”
After the article came out on Feb. 23, 2007, Rodríguez’s luck began to change. He started to get calls from interested buyers in Costa Rica who wanted to contract him for larger orders.
Among those who noticed the article was William López, Francisco’s cousin who left Nicaragua 26 years ago and has since made money working as a business recruiter in Los Angeles, California.
“I saw the article and thought something has to be done,” López said. By helping his cousin create a business and a showroom, López said, he hopes the investment will “have a huge impact on the family,” help promote Nicaraguan culture and help foster a business with export potential.
So the two cousins reacquainted, put their heads together and came up with the idea for ArtesaNic, an antique furniture and Nicaraguan arts and crafts store. López purchased an old home for sale near downtown Granada and turned it into Rodríguez’s furniture showroom, which opened its doors last weekend.
“This is a new start to my life,” said a beaming Rodríguez, 39. “Now I have a stable situation and can sell my furniture in a comfortable setting, because people don’t like to buy things on the street.”
Rodríguez, who now has an online catalogue of his furniture (www.artesanic.com), is not being greedy with the fortuitous turn of events. Instead, he’s connecting with other gifted and struggling artisans in Masaya and offering them some floor space in his new store.
Rodríguez also hopes to have periodic displays of antique religious art and furniture pieces as a way to exhibit and promote Nicaraguan history and culture.
“We want to make this a type of museum, too, so people can learn about Nicaraguan culture,” Rodríguez said. “By next month we will have furniture here for our first exhibit.”
For more info on Artesanic, visit www.artesanic.com, or email email@example.com. In Nicaragua, call: (505) 8480-2538 Or visit the store, located on Calle La Libertad, 50 meters west of Puente Papa Q.