Victor Calixto has memories in the Center of Woodwork starting from when he was six years old. He recalls that he and his two sisters and two brothers, the children of the Center's founder, Manuel Calixto, Sr., would play in the store together. When they were old enough, they would help out in the shop, "sweeping... the standard stuff." Today, the siblings all help run the business at the two locations on 73rd and 103rd Street. It became clear to me that their strong family bond is one of the main reasons why the Center of Woodwork has thrived since opening in 1990.
Most of the work completed at the Center of Woodwork is done by hand. Manuel learned the craft of cabinetry in the eighties in Mexico, and has since taught it to his children. "People are surprised by what we do," Victor told me, referring not only to the work done by hand, but also to the wide variety of projects that the Calixto family is involved in. Victor listed assignments he had taken on, naming everything from retail store displays and restaurant fixtures to built-in radiator covers and moldings. He proudly showed me pictures of a room that he had constructed in an apartment building in Gramercy Park, explaining that the exquisite lacquered mahogany ceiling required a hydraulic lift to put in place. He went on to show me a kitchen he had designed, also in mahogany. "A lot of people specialize and only do radiator covers or closets," he stated, "But in our shops, we do everything." Some corporations are forced to turn away smaller projects, but Victor and his family members are willing to take on anything, regardless of size.
The 73rd Street location receives many Upper East Side walk-ins, but Victor said that the family has generated a long list of clients from the five boroughs and beyond. He credits the Center of Woodwork's success to the quality of work that he and his family churn out. He told me that he recently revisited a kitchen he had worked on about seven years ago, and found it in the same condition it was in on the day he renovated it.
This 316 West 103rd Street address has a storied past filled with fascinating people, but it is perhaps best known for the years that the Gershwin family called it home. Two beloved composers and lyricists, George and Ira, lived here, along with other members of their family, from 1925-1931.