As we are a proud Philadelphia based company, we love to highlight some of the other businesses making moves in the City of Brotherly Love. Whether they be past clients or just people we've come across through browsing instagram, we bring you the Local Intel.
The first part of this series we got in touch with our past client, Nathaniel Mell, who is the owner of ceramic tableware brand Felt+Fat. We headed to North Philadelphia to visit the studio/factory where Nathaniel and his team hand make each and every piece for the brand and to do a photoshoot with Nathaniel in his custom CMMP suit he had commissioned for his wedding.
CMMP: What was the origin story of Felt+Fat?
NM: In 2013 chef Eli Kulp asked me to make him some plates for his new restaurant: High Street on Market. I was a server under him at the time and a recent art school graduate. I'd never made a plate before but had some ceramic experience and thought I would take a crack at it. Thankfully I had about a year to get the job done. In that time there was a lot of trial and error but I began to see an opportunity in this idea of making custom tableware for chefs. After that first job I sought out more work, created new designs and eventually purchased equipment, quit my day job and really got things rolling in 2015. Today we employ 15 staff and produce about 40,000 pieces per year! It's been quite a journey.
CMMP: Over the last year, how has your company evolved to what it is today?
NM: 2020 was a major year for Felt+Fat. Up until then, our revenue split had been roughly 75% wholesale to restaurants and shops and 25% direct-to-consumer (DTC). When Covid hit, the hospitality work dried up almost instantaneously and we had a decision to make; either play it cool, reduce hours for staff and weather the storm, or take a risk by pivoting to a DTC focus. We did the latter and ended up partnering with a great local creative agency, Cohere, who helped us increase our marketing capabilities. We saw a 500% increase in DTC sales, hired several new staff, increased wages, added health and dental insurance for our employees and really dove into this new focus. It was scary but it worked!
CMMP: What does it mean to you to be a Philly based company?
NM: I have lived in Philly for 13 years now and been running a small business here for nearly 8 of those years. Philly is a great city, it's working class at the core which means people appreciate labor and they respect hard work. The creative and business community here has been the lifeblood of Felt and Fat. Every time I had a question about manufacturing, legal issues, design, anything, I could find someone who would point me in the right direction.
The other day I needed a few 5" diameter circles made out of rebar for a special mold I was making, a manufacturer friend of mine pointed me to a huge steel yard in Kensington full of rough looking guys who lit up as soon as I asked them to make me this random shape. They spend their days loading semi trucks with thousands of pounds of rebar every day but were happy to take on this tiny project just to help out a fellow maker. They even refused to let me pay them the amount I had for them when it was done!
We're a good city and we look out for each other here.
CMMP: Any big plans for Felt+Fat in the near future?
NM: We have been incredibly fortunate to see some major growth in the past year and it's about time for some big moves. Felt+Fat in 2022 is looking to find a forever home, invest in some major equipment upgrades, hire a lot of new folks and greatly expand our DTC offerings. Keep your eye on us, there will be a lot happening in the next 12 months.
Nathaniel had a 3 piece suit and S/S sleeve commissioned for his wedding: