Longtime Berkeley furniture maker The Wooden Duck set to close after 2 decades

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Zahira Chaudhry /Staff

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After more than two decades of making furniture out of reclaimed wood in the Bay Area, The Wooden Duck announced Monday that it will be closing its doors.

Since 1994, owners Eric Gellerman and Amy Ferber, along with their team at The Wooden Duck, have salvaged wood in locations ranging from Indonesia to Berkeley and transformed it into hand-crafted furniture. Their work can be found in homes, conference rooms and restaurants throughout the country. The company has already sold its San Rafael location and plans to shut down its Berkeley location at 1823 Eastshore Hwy by Nov. 15.

Trevor Martens, an engineer-turned-beer-brewer, bought The Wooden Duck’s San Rafael store and is in the process of opening a brewery in its place. He plans to furnish his new business with tables from The Wooden Duck.

“The reclaim stuff is gorgeous,” Martens said. “They’re a really great craft shop. It’s too bad they’re going out.”

According to Gellerman, The Wooden Duck is closing for a number of reasons. The increased cost of housing has made it difficult to employ local artisans. Increases in the cost of living have also decreased the number of craft businesses in the area in general, according to Gellerman. Additionally, the company recently finished paying off loans that it took out to pay for damage from a fire in 2014, which had delayed the company’s plans to close earlier.

“Back in the day when everyone lived locally, we had a community of artists and artisans,” Gellerman said.

Now, of the hundreds of similar businesses that existed when he started The Wooden Duck, The Wooden Duck is one of the only few that remain, Gellerman said.

Gellerman added that he had also been ready to close the store for several years for personal reasons, including relaxing and spending time with his wife and two children.

“I want to do nothing for like six months,” Gellerman said. “I want to work on my house … which, ironically, is pretty much unfurnished.”

Of the many projects Gellerman headed over the years, his favorite, he said, was when The Wooden Duck reclaimed more than 180,000 linear feet of lumber from UC Berkeley’s old Memorial Stadium, which was built in 1923. The company has spent the past five years transforming that wood into furniture.

Gellerman also said he was proud of the impact that The Wooden Duck has had on the East Bay community. The company at one point employed almost 40 local workers and artisans, and it has held more than 100 charity events in the past decade, according to Gellerman.

“Most likely if you had a kid in school in Berkeley, you had an event here,” Gellerman said.

Gellerman hopes the company’s workers will find jobs in woodworking. According to Gellerman, a teak furniture store has already offered employment to some of The Wooden Duck’s workers.

Several workers have been with The Wooden Duck for many years, including Juan Gonzales, who has spent 17 years with the company. Gonzales says he will miss the sense of community that The Wooden Duck fostered.

“We’re like a family,” Gonzales said. “It was kind of like my own garage. I did the work that I wanted to do.”

Contact Sam Levin at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @SamJLevin.