Arrowhead founders Matthew Cronheim and Justin Johnson crossed paths at Raleigh’s now-defunct Cafe Helios where Cronheim, then a farmer, was selling vegetables to Johnson, the chef.
Johnson started cooking breakfast for his farmer friend, and said that over these daily meals they began to realize how they “connected on values and ideas.” Cronheim would talk about an “alternative to throwaway culture,” which dovetailed with Johnson’s interest in creating “timeless quality pieces.”
In 2012, they joined forces to become Arrowhead, a Durham-based company that designs and builds furniture, art and installation-based pieces using metal, wood and leather.
Johnson, 28, learned how to work with metal in his father’s fabrication shop outside Raleigh, eventually turning his attention to building and repairing motorcycles. Cronheim, also 28, who grew up outside Greensboro, learned to work with wood due to a “practical need while farming” and started woodworking in a shop on his farm.
Even though one had a background in working with wood and the other had a background in metal, Cronheim said they agreed that quality is “their biggest common thread,” as their conversations over breakfast would roam on this topic, ranging from food and clothing to motorcycles and construction.
Those conversations led the men to work together on a renovation design for Helios. Although the renovation plans eventually fell through, their related discussions with others allowed them to see there was a need for their work in the region. Between the available work and their agreement that quality was to be a focal point, the men quit their jobs and formed Arrowhead.
Both Cronheim and Johnson design everything from renovations to custom furniture. Depending on where ideas strike, Johnson says designs can start out as drawings on napkins before being finished on the computer.
Even though their shop is full of loud powerful machines, their finished tables, porch swings, chairs and beds are smooth and clean, belying their noisy beginnings with their quiet, sleek nature. The Arrowhead workshop and office are sparse and tidy, with loads of open space in the former and only the bare bones necessities in the latter. The lack of clutter makes the table-sized whiteboard the focus of the office, complete with a running list of upcoming projects.
The men currently have two full-time employees and one part-time employee working with them in their workshop, where they always have multiple projects in the works. At present, they’re finishing up projects with the much-anticipated restaurant Standard Foods in Raleigh, and a hotel in New York’s Hudson Valley. Future projects include a custom house renovation, shelving for Raleigh’s Busy Bee Cafe and lamp bases for a New York City company. Smiles form on both their faces as they discuss their work and explain the notations on the whiteboard.
. Cronheim and Johnson make well-crafted furniture that is timeless in an age of disposable, quickly consumed goods. They find themselves in fertile creative ground in North Carolina, set between the state’s furniture-friendly past and its maker-friendly future.
About the maker
Arrowhead: Arrowhead utilizes various media (metal, wood, leather) to design and construct furniture, art and structures. Pieces start at $80.
Where sold: Online at arrowhead-nc.com
Every other month, we will profile a local artisan who makes items by hand for the home or garden.