Every week for the rest of the year, Our Town will celebrate our 45th anniversary by profiling a neighborhood business that has been around longer than we have. Know of a local business that should be on our list? Email us at email@example.com
Little Wolf Cabinet Shop is an institution on First Avenue, specializing in fine wood work since 1956.
But the craftsmanship started way before then, in a town near Munich, Germany. John Wolf Sr. immigrated from there to America, where he would pass on the family trade that had begun in the early 1800s. His grandson, John Wolf Jr., has now taken up the mantle, and tools.
Wolf recalls being a child and stepping over the wood pieces in the shop his father ran. “I always knew since the day I was born that I would be here,” said Wolf.
A typical day at the shop starts early, with Wolf assigning his crew of 20 the latest projects, which then get built from top to bottom. Slabs of mahogany, oak, cherry and the most popular, poplar, are transformed into unique pieces – libraries, cabinets, vanities, entertainment centers and desks, among them.
The shop, at 12,000 square feet, is bigger than it was decades ago, and now houses late-model saws, lathes and sanders complemented by hand tools. All the work is done in the shop, near 82nd Street.
Wolf and his colleagues work closely with their clientele to design the pieces. He describes his customers as “tough clients” but he gives them what they want. When a customer’s suggestion appears prosaic to his staff, they attempt to advance the initial vision into something distinctive.
Wolf said he and his craftsmen pride themselves on unique works.
This intimacy is what Wolf enjoys the most about his job. His crew has fabricated pieces and projects for homes and organizations the world over, from California to Israel. John says simply learning how to survive on the Upper East Side can be a challenge. But for 59 years, the shop has thrived, a mainstay in Yorkville.