Crestview upholsterer traces his talent to New Orleans and a '51 Plymouth
If a favorite eatery updated the booth seats or a dentist replaced the seats and backs to waiting-room chairs, there is a good chance that the work had been done by Lawrence “Larry” Kraemer, who operates Kraemer’s Upholstery on South Main Street in historic downtown Crestview.
“I did funeral homes before: chairs, not caskets,” Kraemer said.
“This place is like a pawn shop,” he said on an early autumn morning as he worked on the seat of an estate sale find, replacing the worn leather with new vinyl. “You don’t know what’s going to walk in the door.”
The shop demonstrates the variety, as chairs from a previous century line the walls or an RV kitchenette seating arrangements receives a new look.
“It’s a dying art,” Kraemer said with his still present New Orleans Southern accent. “There ain’t nobody doing it no more.”
Kraemer grew up in New Orleans, which may have provided his early interest in taking something that has seen wear and giving it a like-new look.
“After my grandfather died, we had a ’51 Plymouth,” he said about his teen years. “I wasn’t old enough to drive yet. When I got old enough to get my driver’s license, it needed work on the door panels.
“So I did some work on the door panels,” he added. “You might say that’s what got me interested in upholstery.”
Kraemer came to Crestview as a young airman in 1964; he served in the Air Force, and he extended his military career through the reserves and the National Guard. He served for 27 years among the three paths.
It was during those years that Kraemer also developed skills in his second career as an upholsterer.
“When I was in the Air Force, I started tinkering around in a shop in Baker,” Kraemer said. “Head’s Trading Post. It was used furniture and stuff like that.”
In between, Kraemer learned the craft of cutting manipulating, placing, sewing, tacking fabrics, all in order to transform old, ratty upholstery. He worked for other upholstery companies, both in Crestview and in Niceville.
It was also during those intervening years working for someone else that Kraemer did a little side work in his home’s garage. Military service also continued for Kraemer into his civilian life as he updated upholstery in C-130s at Hurlburt Field.
“I worked out there for 10 years, doing aircraft interiors,” Kraemer said.
A contract with the Crestview Police Department took Kraemer out of his garage and into his Main Street shop. The city encouraged Kraemer to take this location, where he has worked for himself for five years.
The shop itself is small. There is no selection of fabrics, but Kraemer has recommendations for sourcing fabric. There are no chairs for sale. Kraemer takes each piece on its own for the clients.
What can be found in Kraemer’s Upholstery is a dedication to the work.
“As long as I’ve been in this business, I never had anything come back on me,” he said. “That’s because I’m doing it like I’m doing it for me.”
Kraemer’s Upholstery is located at 567 S. Main St., specializing in home, auto, business and boat upholstery; 850-305-7152.