Story by Mike Fanago and Photography by Mike Stringfellow
It began as a little repair shop with one account in the garage of Bill Schoenbauer III's Waldorf home in 1990 and has grown into one of the preeminent furniture restoration facilities in the world. Now employing more than 30 skilled craftsmen and their apprentices in-house and 676 specialized subcontractors throughout the region, the name Schoenbauer Furniture Services, Inc. has come to stand for excellence.
It is a success story as old as America itself, based on timeless principles of hard work, self reliance and customer satisfaction. It is also a company imbued in the traditions of craftsmen who have built on skills that have taken generations to learn.
Heirlooms and antiques from Senator's offices, Washington, D.C. embassies and furniture from as far away as South Africa have passed through the Schoenbauer's Charlotte Hall workplace. Each of those pieces were treated with the same loving care as the furniture and artwork of everyday people who simply want to take care of what they have.
The beginnings of this family oriented business extend back more than a century to a german immigrant named carl Schoenbauer who came to America and became a carpenter in 1896. Carl taught wood working to his son Frank who became a cabinet maker and later a furniture repairman. Frank had a son named Francis who learned cabinet making with his father.
After World War II, Francis saw the need for a company that could take care of damage caused to furniture by shipping. With a lifetime of working with wood behind him, he started a company providing service to Southern Transfer and Storage. Soon, other firms sought out his expertise.
Insurance companies and private individuals also came to the Schoenbauer's for their furniture repair, restoration and refinishing needs. His son, Francis William (Bill) Schoenbauer III, continued the family tradition. He apprenticed with his father before starting the company that employs them today.
"I started repairing furniture when I was 16 years old. I'm 70 now," Bill Schoenbauer Jr. said.
The Schoenbauer's have all earned the art and craft of working with wood and other forms of furniture well. Frank Robinson of Serenity Farm in Benedict is one of the companies satisfied customers. Nearly a year ago, several large antique pieces of Robinson's were severely water damaged.
"I didn't think they were salvageable," Robinson said. "The extent of the damage done to them was great. They did a great job doing the repairs."
Whether it's water damage, scratching, neglect, or any number of other causes at least one member of the family or company has experience with that specific repair. Where most of us see ruins, Schoenbauer and the people who work for him, see challenge.
What i enjoy most is the creative part of the business, actually doing the repairs," Bill Schoenbauer II said. I get a lot of satisfaction out of watching what the other guys do. too.
One of those guys, is his younger brother Mike Schoenbauer.
"Probably what I enjoy most is being able to work with my family." Mike said " I just like working with my hands."
Bill Schoenbauer III sets an extremely high standard for the company to follow. For the last two years, Bill has won the Association of Restorers National on-the-spot championship.
Despite his own expertise, Bill III traces his company's success back to his father.Schoenbauer Furniture Service, Inc. is located at 30507 Potomac Way in Charlotte Hall. For more information about Schoenbauer Furniture, visit their web site at www.schoenbauer.com or call 1-800-955-7603