About five years ago, Lee Hoffmeier moved into a sleek, industrial-style apartment in downtown Fort Wayne’s West Central neighborhood. Upon doing so, he wanted furniture to match the aesthetic.
But when he visited local shops, he realized that the pieces he envisioned for his space were difficult to find. So he went to a hardware store and made end tables and a coffee table to match the shelves in his kitchen, using common wood with black iron legs.
Lee Hoffmeier's first coffee table in his home.
Eighteen months later, Hoffmeier moved into a home and crafted a dining table from a locally sourced slab of black walnut. When friends visited and saw his work, they wanted to commission projects of their own. While he didn’t intend to start a small business, you might say a modern-day revolution began.
Today, Hoffmeier is the Founder of Fort Wayne Industrial Revolution, making one-of-a-kind, ethically sourced tables for individuals and businesses from Fort Wayne to Atlanta, GA. Hoffmeier says he’s received requests to make tables for clients as far away as Germany, but he’s had to turn down jobs overseas due to shipping challenges.
Still, he hopes to keep growing his business Stateside. To date, one of his largest projects was creating a 30-foot-long table for
Hubler Honda in Taylorsville, Ind. You can also find Hoffmeier’s tables at use in many area businesses and restaurants, from the Hoppy Gnome in downtown Fort Wayne, to Lofthouse Films on Wells Street, to
Hotel Tango Distillery in Indianapolis.
A 30-foot-long table for Hubler Honda in Taylorsville, Ind.
Fort Wayne Industrial Revolution sells two main products: Tables of all kinds and its uniquely designed charcuterie boards, priced around $150 and shaped like meat cleavers.
In the first year Hoffmeier offered charcuterie boards, he received more than 200 orders between October and Christmas.
Lee Hoffmeier of Fort Wayne Industrial Revolution brands one of his craft charcuterie boards using a blowtorch.
Everything Hoffmeier makes is made-to-order, and he is booked through the end of the year in 2021.
Hoffmeier notes that in addition to using ethically sourced wood in his projects, he also uses local wood as often as possible. It comes from trees that have fallen during a storm or trees that were already being cut down for other reasons.
A detail shot of Lee Hoffmeier's first dining table in his home.
One feature that makes his work distinctive is how he blends the wood in his tables with substances like epoxy.
Many—if not most—of his tables have an epoxy “river” running through them.
This is a popular trend in upscale tables right now, Hoffmeier says, but he likes it for several reasons. Oftentimes, the recycled wood he uses is decayed in spots and wouldn’t work without something in the middle holding it together. Epoxy also makes every piece truly one-of-a-kind, as clients get to choose the color. Clients can even pick a wood slab with a live edge for their tables to further customize them.
Many—if not most—of Fort Wayne Industrial Revolution's tables have an epoxy “river” running through them.
An engineer by trade, Hoffmeier has been building things since he was a kid, growing up in Craigville, Indiana, a small town south of Fort Wayne. In addition to tables and cutting boards, some of his earliest projects involved tinkering with contemporary industrial lamps made from unexpected items, like vintage metal fans and cameras.
“I grew up on a really, really small airport that my parents managed, and my dad owned a construction company so, by default, I was always around construction,” he says. “In the summertime, or even on weekends, my brothers and I would work for him. Or we’d be mowing the lawn because we had two airport runways to maintain; we were always busy.”
Lee Hoffmeier of Fort Wayne Industrial Revolution works on cutting a black walnut table to size for a client in Detroit in his home in Fort Wayne.
After graduating from Norwell High School in 2001, Hoffmeier went into Basic Training and then enlisted in the Indiana Air National Guard. Several years later, he graduated from IPFW with a degree in organizational leadership. He’s been running
Fort Wayne Industrial Revolution on the side since 2017, and to this day, he works full-time as an engineer
“I still see my business as a hobby,” Hoffmeier says.
A detail shot of Lee Hoffmeier's first dining table in his home.
Even so, his hobby has been picking up speed in recent months, since the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent boom in housing and home improvement projects across the U.S.
“I underestimated the demand for custom furniture,” Hoffmeier says. “I think the increase in orders was due to the fact that homeowners took on so many remodeling projects during that time.”
A detail shot of Lee Hoffmeier's first coffee table in his home.
Overall, Hoffmeier feels lucky to have a business that wasn’t negatively impacted by the pandemic. Next on his list is increasing his workspace for more project capacity.
“I want to move out of my garage,” he says. “I would like to have a true workshop, so I have adequate space and can grow from there.”
In every local project he takes on, Hoffmeier invites clients into his workspace during the initial consult and lets them see the projects he is currently working on, as well as the first pieces he made, which are still in use at his house.
As he creates projects, he markets his work by word of mouth and social media
is where most people find me,” Hoffmeier says.
Wood wine stoppers by Fort Wayne Industrial Revolution.
When it comes to clients, repeat customers like James Khan, the owner of several Fort Wayne restaurants
, can’t say enough positive things about Hoffmeier’s business.
Fort Wayne Industrial Revolution made an impressive 10-foot conference table for Khan’s second-floor offices at the Hoppy Gnome with wood sourced from Pennsylvania. Hoffmeier even helped figure out how to get it up a flight of stairs.
Khan then hired Hoffmeier to create 26 additional tables for the Hoppy Gnome’s dining room.
“You know how when you're watching a show on HGTV, and throughout the duration of the entire show, the contractor is giving all of his attention to the client?” Khan says. “Well, that is what it felt like working with Lee. He is busy and has so many projects he’s working at one time. Yet, he was in constant communication with us while he built our table. He allowed us to participate in the actual construction of it, and he was so organized that he was able to communicate well in advance of deadlines to allow us to plan to participate.”
A conference table by Fort Wayne Industrial Revolution for James Khan, owner of the Hoppy Gnome and several Fort Wayne restaurants.
Khan says Hoffmeier’s talent and vision shine through each project he produces, but his “most endearing quality” is his “absolute passion for sharing his work and bringing joy to others.”
“That is something you can't teach,” Khan says.
With his engineering background and more than 20 years in the National Guard, Hoffmeier sees a lot of crossover between the military, his job, and his hobbies.
“I feel like I’m constantly troubleshooting how to make this (process) more efficient and more cost-effective for the client,” he says. “I’m also an out-of-the-box thinker, and that helps, as well.”
A conference table by Fort Wayne Industrial Revolution for Podlaski Law, LLC.
In addition to his business’s growth, Hoffmeier is intentional about cultivating Fort Wayne’s growth, as a whole. It’s a place where his passions intersect.
“The military has always been a big passion of mine,” he says. “I love the military. I’ve got two great kids and a fiancé. My kids are 7 and 3. So they keep me busy. And I’m seeing a trend where people are looking to work with local people and seek them out in Fort Wayne. I think it’s cool. I want to stay in Fort Wayne because I love the city. It’s growing, and constant improvements are being made. We have hockey, basketball, baseball, and now, even a soccer team. It’s a great place to call home.”
For more information about Fort Wayne Industrial Revolution, visit their website
, Facebook page
, or Instagram at @fortwayneindustrialrevolution