Jamestown Man Turns Longtime Hobby into New Career of Making Outdoor Furniture

Jen Stafford & William Canby

Jen Stafford & William Canby


Article Contributed by
Curt Olson

Like grandfather like grandson.

“I’ve been a woodworker since age 10 working with my grandfather,” said William Canby, half of Wiljen Woodworks in Jamestown. The other half of the two-person business that officially started fulltime on June 21 is Jen Stafford.

Canby recently retired from more than 20 years in retail at the Jamestown Cycle Shop to begin a new venture, building “the original Chautauqua Lake chair.”

“From the time I could pick up a hammer and saw and cut wood I was working with my grandfather,” Canby said. “The idea for this type of furniture came to me about five years ago.”

His grandfather worked at the former Maddox Table in Jamestown, a business that produced high end furniture, Canby said.

Wiljen Woodworks sells a variety of outdoor furniture, including chairs, rockers, gliders, tables, foot rests, picnic tables and chaise lounges, with various pieces in the Adirondack, Garden or Junior series at the wiljenwoodworks.com website. Aside from online purchases that allow Canby to sell items all over the world, the new business also has four new retail locations that include:

  • Everydays True Value on Foote Avenue in Jamestown;
  • Clear View Pools on Fairmount Avenue in Jamestown;
  • Stone and Outdoor Living Center on Bayview Road in Bemus Point; and
  • Evergreen Outfitters in Mayville.

Canby said he is in negotiations for a Dunkirk location and expects to expand retail locations toward the Buffalo area in 2018.

“It’s getting us in the right spot at the right time,” Canby said.

The shop of Wiljen Woodworks is located at 36 Midgley Street, Jamestown, in a neighborhood just southeast of UPMC Chautauqua Hospital and just southwest of Willard Park. Stafford is a graduate of Jamestown Business College with a degree in business marketing. She has worked over the years for Bush Industries, AcuRite, and other national and international businesses.

Canby said while he offers customers more than 40 products now he is always examining ways to expand the outdoor furniture line. For example, he will be adding a dining chair to the dining table that he has in his line of products.

While Canby had the side business as a hobby the past few years, he has even provided outside furniture pieces for fundraisers, including the Rapaport Fund for cancer research. He also created these products for gifts and sold items on the side from his career at the Jamestown Cycle Shop.
Canby has taken great care and research to find just the right wood for his outdoor furniture: Western Red Cedar. The wood bought from the Pacific Northwest is accustomed to moisture, just like the rain and snow in Western New York. This wood, which is considered exotic in the Northeast United States, has developed a solid reputation for not deteriorating from moisture or insects, according to information provided Canby.

Western Red Cedar is often used for siding, roofing, decking and outdoor furniture. The sapwood is nearly white and narrow and not more than 1-inch wide. The heartwood is reddish or pinkish brown to a dull brown. While some people insist on adding color to the furniture products, Canby said the best low maintenance product is to keep it the way it looks.

“Let age give it its color,” Canby said.

The wiljenwoodworks.com website also states that Western Red Cedar contains a natural enzyme that repels insects from feeding on the wood. It also resists decay, defies decay and makes it easy to maintain. This outdoor furniture can be left out in the weather and will become silvery gray and smooth as it ages.

He said the contour of the chairs are made specifically to benefit someone’s back for comfort.

“Once you sit in place in one of these chairs you’re going to love it,” Canby promises, basing that comment on the satisfied people who have sat in the chairs he has made.

To read more articles featuring local businesses around the area, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com.