Deborah Drexler’s favourite part of being involved with the family’s retail business has always been discussing furniture and design with customers. Close to twenty years ago, Deborah left her job as a primary school teacher to lend a helping hand in the brand’s original warehouse, fielding phone queries and acting as a Jill-of-all-trades. Nowadays, she is heavily involved in the buying side of the business as well as brand image, and she holds a seat on the business’s Board.
The Matt Blatt business has grown and evolved dramatically over twenty years. Deb and husband Adam have moved from manufacturing office chairs to selling on eBay to importing replica furniture and now, to commissioning original designs. Deb’s face lights up as she recalls many spur-of-the-moment decisions and rolls of the dice…all of which have made the business the expanding national presence it is today. She almost seems a little stunned by the major player Matt Blatt has become.
“Only recently we were at an overseas furniture show and I found myself barefoot atop an enormous stack of Turkish rugs, pulling out different designs to add to our 2018 textiles collection. There was a crowd of people below watching me and I looked up and there was a moment where I thought ‘how did I get here?’,” she recalls.
“There were a couple of key turning points, like when we decided to move from manufacturing to importing and pretty much shut down our production plant overnight. It was a major gamble and we just didn’t know whether it would pay off. I was ready to go back to teaching, and Adam was prepared to drive a taxi if the move didn’t pay off. As it turned out, we’re still in the game.
“I work closely with our lead buyer, and Adam and I travel overseas on buying trips to major furniture fairs in Asia, Europe and the US every year. A big part of my role is maintaining the integrity of the brand we’ve built. I’m very conscious of what Matt Blatt stands for, and ensuring everything we do – and buy – reflects that,” she explains.
“I’d be lying if I said living with your own business is easy. It’s not, it’s tough. It’s a joy and a pleasure, it’s stimulating and challenging, but you never leave it behind. There are always phone calls, emails, staff and supplier issues to work through, but it’s never dull. Like with any family business I imagine (son Joel is the company’s General Manager and daughter Avril designs prints and rugs for the brand), there are times during a family get-together when we’ll find ourselves talking shop. We do, however, make a conscious effort on certain occasions to separate work and play and to take work talk off the table,” she says.
Both keen travellers, Adam and Deborah find that even on personal adventures they’re drawn to exploring the retail experience in other countries. “We often find fresh inspiration when we’re not looking for it, and since we’re both fascinated by the retail business and always on the lookout for eye-catching visual merchandising ideas, travelling is often a terrific opportunity to look at things with fresh eyes. It’s even better when we’re off exploring, and we’re reminded just how unique and entertaining the Matt Blatt in-showroom experience really is – even on a global stage.”