Block Island Furniture
Island native Ben Martin works on building a bench while discussing his new business venture, Block Island Furniture. Martin is building the bench outside his shop
in the Oddfellows building so that weary travelers can pause and take a break in the summer heat. He’s also adding more shelving so they can look at his products while they rest.
It has been a life-long ambition, to have a space where island-made products are created and sold, Martin says.
“For me, construction was always in the forefront,” the veteran contractor stated, crediting the high pay for his decision to stay in the field. Construction is one of the few year-round jobs available on Block Island.
“But creating a custom piece for a client, on Block Island, with island materials, for a reasonable price, that’s been my dream,” he says.
Martin uses reclaimed lumber for many of his pieces, building dining tables, Adirondack chairs, beach chairs, coffee tables, and numerous other items on display in his shop. Coat racks, canvas bags, aprons, coasters, candle holders, and glassware adorn the shelves of his shop. Clients commission him to custom-make the larger items in his workshop on the West Side.
Martin hopes to eventually have a workbench crafting area with events for kids, and a place where people can see the artisan at work. He is also hoping to bring
other island artists onboard, with space for their creations too.
“It’s a way to work as a community to create sustainable jobs for everyone,” Martin says, pointing to the need for many people to find a way of life once they age out of construction work.
“I can’t be on a roof at 75 years old,” he says.
It has not been smooth sailing, though. Martin is just getting over Lyme disease, which put him about two weeks behind. He says it’s hard, but he is excited to be working toward an industry that promotes local artisans.
“I’ve had a lifelong love of building, and working for yourself is great. And (the shop) beats working outside in the winter.” Martin hopes the business, once established, will give him more time to spend with family, as he builds beach chairs and custom pieces on commission.
“It’s something I’ve always dreamed about and I’m happy to be stepping into the dream of doing it.”
Block Island Furniture is open Friday through Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.