T.Y. Fine Furniture opens Merion Village showroom to eager customers

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO
Tarik Yousef of T.Y. Fine Furniture

Before Tarik Yousef opened a showroom in Merion Village to sell his hand-crafted solid wood furniture, customers across Ohio and beyond trekked to his workshop in Marysville.

They were eager to meet face-to-face and discuss designs with the artisan himself, who until recently marketed and sold most of his T.Y. Fine Furniture pieces online.

"People were just asking for it constantly," says Yousef of his brick-and-mortar location. "When your customers ask for something, you listen and do what they say."

The showroom, which opened in June, has provided Yousef and his staff new opportunities to connect with customers as well as the surrounding community.

"The days that I am here in the showroom, I love talking to customers," Yousef says. "The one thing I really lost and missed with the web sales was that I didn't really get to know my customers, I didn't get to talk to them. It was a much colder transaction. You do talk to them on the phone and over email, but it's not the same, and we've developed excellent relationships with people."

The 31-year-old Upper Arlington native started his furniture business in 2004 while he was a mechanical engineering student at Ohio State University. He designed and built his first pieces--everything from magazine holders and bookcases to coffee tables and sofas--in the basement of his townhouse apartment. "I started making stuff and people started noticing it," Yousef says.

He went on to work as an engineer for Honda Engineering, but after several years of juggling his full-time job and running T.Y. Fine Furniture on the side, he left Honda to focus entirely on his business.

"It was just something that I knew I was going to do at some point," Yousef says. "(Honda) was just too big, and I kind of developed this obsession with small design firms. I'd always (say), 'I wish I could work for a small design firm, a place where you can see it from start to finish,' but frankly that doesn't exist unless you do it yourself. And I was like, well, I have a small design firm, essentially. It's just sitting there ready to be developed further. Why not just do it?"

Yousef began with custom pieces, and has since developed four lines of furniture now sold in his showroom along with organic mattresses, hand-woven rugs, lamps and local art.

The mix of products are designed to promote both beautiful and healthful living. Yousef's furniture is made with natural materials, such as boards from naturally fallen trees and a non-toxic wood finish made from certified organic ingredients.

Yousef sources most of the wood he uses from Ohio. He works closely with Doug Zeyer of Zeyer Lumber in Pickerington, who harvests wood from his family's farm in Belmont and Jefferson counties in eastern Ohio. "It's a very green operation," Zeyer says.

Zeyer provides Yousef with a variety of woods-cherry, maple, walnut and more-and says he's seen Yousef's designs evolve over time from traditional to modern.

While his pieces don't embody just one particular style, Yousef does have a love of modern design.

"A lot of people see midcentury, a little bit of Danish influence, Scandinavian" in his current work, Yousef says. "I have a lot of Shaker influences, most of my early work was Shaker. The Enso Collection is purely Japanese-inspired shapes. But then the modern is very much modern."

Yousef's 2,000-square-foot showroom in a circa-1920s building that he bought and renovated in Merion Village reflects the organic quality of his pieces. The first-floor showroom space has a gallery vibe, with collection pieces neatly arranged and accented with colorful "It's a Linda" rugs and framed original works by artist Leo Mao. Another draw is the local farmers market that Yousef helped to organize in a parking lot he purchased across the street.

Ron Templin and his partner, Bill LaFayette, walked to the shop from their home in Marion Village when it opened this summer. They initially discussed building bookshelves, then decided on a custom cherry dining room set and buffet from Yousef.

"We thought, 'What better way to buy local than to purchase it from him?'"

"It's just nice having something in our neighborhood that kind of revitalizes the old past, because you know that area used to be old storefronts," Templin adds. "It's kind of bringing that homey, old-fashioned feel back to the neighborhood."

Liz Jaggers of Worthington discovered T.Y. Fine Furniture online several years ago and was happily surprised when she learned the business was locally based. She purchased a platform-style bed and even picked out the slab of walnut used in the design.

"He's just awesome with clients," Jaggers says of Yousef. "He's enthusiastic, but it's so subtle. He's humble. … You (can) tell he really, really enjoy(s) what he (does)."

Dana Wilson is a freelance writer.