WOODLAND — In some ways, David Hayes considers closing his longtime business a blessing.
“I need to scale down,” says the owner of The Undresser, who has stripped, refinished, designed, repaired and sold furniture out of his 1021 Lincoln Ave. shop for the past 38 years.
Soon, Hayes’ building — a former dairy that dates back to World War II — and others near it will be razed to make room for a new Yolo County Courthouse, which will span the city block bounded by Lincoln Avenue and Fifth, Sixth and Main streets.
Hayes, who turned 61 on Saturday, has until March 31 to clear out. He says he hasn’t decided whether to set up shop somewhere else or just call it quits.
“I’m not ready to give this up — I’m really not,” Hayes said last week as he and a friend went about the daunting task of moving items from the shop — which covers about a sixth of the block — to a storage shed.
But finding the right space has been a challenge for Hayes, who says landlords are charging five times what he currently pays, for a lot less square footage.
“I’m going to take a couple months off and regroup, then figure out what I’m going to do,” he said.
Several other businesses have been affected by the courthouse project as well. An art gallery and construction business closed in December, and an electrician also is preparing to move by the month’s end.
Their properties were purchased by the city of Woodland, and the City Council on March 1 approved the sale of the land to the Administrative Office of the Courts for $3.4 million, its appraised value. The State Public Works Board approved the acquisition on March 11.
Meanwhile, Hayes is slowly making his exit. He’s stopped taking furniture to repair or refinish, and he’s hoping more people will come take a look at his unique collection of furniture, antiques and collectibles — and perhaps become their new owners.
Much of the collection is what Hayes describes as “Davidized” — a term coined by a friend that refers to some of his more unusual creations.
“I don’t make furniture from scratch,” said Hayes, a self-described “thrift-store junkie” who gets his inspiration from pieces found at estate sales and secondhand stores. “I’ll slice and dice to make a piece of furniture from what it was.”
They include an armchair upholstered in denim jeans, dress shirt and tie; a plastic-fruit-topped cabinet altered and colorfully painted to resemble the late Carmen Miranda; and “Come Again,” a paint-by-numbers scene of the Last Supper that, in the background, features images of what Hayes believes the religious figures would look like today.
In another room, Hayes calls attention to a light fixture he “Davidized” with a Hula Hoop and several legless lawn flamingoes he found at a thrift shop.
“Every time I come in there there’s something different,” said Woodlander Richard Wright, a former employee of Hayes’ who is now helping him move. “He sees things in a different way, like nobody else.”
A fourth-generation Yolo County native, Hayes went to the University of the Pacific to get his teacher’s credential. He did substitute teaching in Woodland and Esparto before a friend showed him an article about furniture refinishing.
“I’d been refinishing furniture out of the garage” for himself and friends, Hayes said. Eventually, he decided to make a career out of it, launching The Undresser in July 1973 on Woodland’s Second Street and moving to his current site about six months later.
At first, Hayes refinished pieces that people brought to him. But after a while, customers were stopping by his shop “looking for things to buy,” Hayes said.
So he began collecting and sprucing up special pieces, saving them for the three big furniture sales he held each year.
“I wanted to make the impact of having a nice sale,” he said.
Today, The Undresser is a maze of showrooms featuring Hayes’ “Davidized” creations, as well as artwork and assorted antiques that he’s collected over the years. Visitors are greeted by Milo, Hayes’ sheep-like Bedlington terrier; and Burl, a black, white and orange cat.
Out back, the focus turns to Hayes’ metal sculptures.
Hayes traces his interest in metal artwork to his childhood, where, as the son of local farmers, he had access to a wide array of metal pieces to experiment with.
“It comes pretty easy to me,” said Hayes, whose sculptures incorporate wine racks, tractor and car parts, a barbecue grill, even parts from an old horse buggy. Some are fused with more delicate pieces such as glass teacups and ball-shaped ornaments.
Hayes said he will show some of his collection at the Antique Trove in Roseville while he ponders his next step.
Yolo Superior Court officials say construction of the new courthouse is scheduled to begin in early 2013 and last about two years. Once completed, the $170 million project — which is being funded by a statewide increase in court fines and fees — will feature 14 courtrooms and consolidate court operations that are now spread among seven buildings in downtown Woodland.
Already, a sign outside Hayes’ business declares the property the future courthouse’s home.
“I think change can be good,” Hayes said. “You can’t stay in the way of progress — I don’t have a problem with that.”
— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or (530) 747-8048.