By Kevin Collison
John Pryor has returned to his native Kansas City from Boston to contribute to downtown’s revival, crafting and selling unique furniture harvested from local trees in a new shop in the East Crossroads.
“It’s a tree to table model,” he said, riffing off the ‘farm to table’ restaurant trend. “We work with tree service vendors and ourselves to harvest trees.
“Trees from urban areas often are great for furniture making. They provide wood that’s more beautiful than managed forests.”
The owner of the new Madison Flitch studio furniture showroom and workshop at 501 E. 16th St. tapped on his desk table to emphasize his point.
“This is from a 200 year-old walnut tree that grew near the Weston bend of the Missouri,” he said. “It was growing when (Kansas City founder) John McCoy came around the bend.”
Madison Flitch–Madison is is his great-grandfather’s name, Flitch is Old English for wood slab–is located in circa 1920 industrial building that was a sign manufacturing business for much of its life.
“We consider the Crossroads as the beach head for downtown,” Pryor said. We want to be the furniture artist for downtown, not to say we don’t want to serve the suburban market.”
Pryor grew up here, graduated from Kansas State and then moved to Massachusetts in 2002 for graduate school.
After working as a “corporate suit” for several years, he wanted out. His wife was up for returning to Kansas City too.
“The revitalization happening downtown was remarkable to us and we wanted to be part of it,” he said.
His new business features a showroom space that’s open weekdays from noon to 5 p.m. and a large workshop. There are tours of the studio every Thursday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., and the shop is open by appointment.
Pryor can craft almost any kind of furniture, but he doesn’t do cabinets.
“We’re trying to design pieces nobody else has done before,” he said.
“We focus on originality, we’re not trying to produce furniture as a cookie-cutter, but something that stands out as an art piece.”
A lot of his studio furniture is sold online to buyers on the Coasts and Chicago. It’s another way for him to show off Kansas City.
“We take great joy selling to New Yorkers, Angelenos and Chicagoans,” Pryor said. “It’s great they know, ‘oh, good things come out of there too.
“It’s a way for us to celebrate Kansas City through the natural beauty of its trees.”
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