Talking Small Biz: Frankford firm builds reputation with custom retail fixtures

Posted: January 25, 2013

A DAM KAMENS, 42, of the Bella Vista section of the city, is chief executive of Amuneal Manufacturing Corp., a 30,000-square-foot design- and custom-fabrication factory in Frankford. His work is seen in high-end retail stores and high-design environments in New York City, Philadelphia and other cities. He joined Amuneal - which at the time made magnetic shielding - after graduating from college in 1993, and diversified the business.

Q: How'd you retool Amuneal?

A: We started out building and selling custom furniture. At the time, there weren't a lot of companies producing custom pieces. Then we branched into custom store fixtures and art fabrication.

Q: And magnetic shielding?

A: I'd say it represents about half of our business today. We've found new commercial applications for magnetic shields used by semiconductor companies.

Q: Barneys New York put you on the map with custom fab for retail. How'd that come about?

A: It started organically. We met a woman at a store-fixtures show who liked our work. She asked if we could make her 25 bikini hangers and some clipboards. I knew she worked for Barneys, but I didn't know much about them.

Q: Seriously?

A: I didn't realize their place in high-end retail. And the woman we met was their director of store design. I met with her in New York, and they became our biggest customer for about six years. Some of the contacts we made there moved on to other retailers, and we ended getting work there.

Q: Sounds serendipitous.

A: We developed a reputation for being fearless and doing things faster than other people. We've branched out into hospitality design and done custom work for hotels. We did some lobby- and guest-suite furniture for the Royalton and a bronze relief door for the rooftop lounge at the Standard [in Manhattan].

Q: What would you say is the most interesting product-design project you've worked on?

A: In the last year we did two signature staircases for REI and Ted Baker in New York. We also fabricated a sculpture on the High Line for artist Sarah Sze.

Q: Any projects in Philly?

A: We've done work at the airport. We built all those units in the terminals where the monitors are displayed. We just did some custom work at the Hard Rock Cafe on Market Street.

Q: How has the business grown?

A: We have about 85 employees and around $20 million in annual revenues.

Q: Tell me about the workforce.

A: What's surprising about our team is that in the back of the factory you have a metalworker working next to someone with a background in fine arts or design.

Q: And still in Frankford?

A: Taxes are secondary to the benefits of being here. We need a certain amount of grit, which we won't get in a suburban industrial park.


Email: hinkelm@phillynews.com

Phone: 215-854-2656

On Twitter: @MHinkelman

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