Attention to Detail
Mez Works’ 31-year old owner combines traditional craftsmanship with savvy tech skills in a place–and with people–he loves.
It’s hard to imagine a more inspiring landscape than the piercing blue waters and snowcapped mountains of South Lake Tahoe, a backdrop that shaped Terren Gomez’s artistic instincts for years as a winter sports photographer. Since 2011, however, the South Lake resident has been plying his trade as a craftsman at Mez Works, making modern furniture that is equal parts form and function.
“You can live whatever life you want up here, really,” Gomez says. “But we’re extremely fortunate to build furniture for a living.”
Gomez, 31, has lived in South Lake for nearly 22 years. His family moved to the mountains from San Diego when he was 10, and he came to love the unique culture and beauty of life by the lake. He returned to San Diego for his senior year of high school, but quickly found his way back.
“I just wanted to be back up in the mountains,” Gomez says. “After high school, I was really into photography. Until 2011, I was a professional photographer in the action sports industry. (I was) published internationally…and got to travel all over the world and it was incredible.”
Gomez’s photos appeared in skiing and snowboarding magazines, but he eventually found the daily exertion of getting the shots both financially and physically draining.
In crafting handmade wooden frames for his prints, however, he soon found a source of alternative income—and an outlet for his creativity.
“I started posting stuff on social media and I got a few people making orders every month—picture frame orders,” he says. “Then someone asked me if I could make them a bed, and then a bar; things like that. From there I started making tables, and the interest grew.”
With a background in construction from his father and an Etsy page to sell his products, Gomez acquired his shop in 2012 and Mez Works was officially established. Orders for his modern, simplistic furniture came from far and wide, and soon he brought on his fiancee, Allie Halperin, as project manager and creative director.
“She doubled our orders in the first year, which is incredible,” Gomez says.
Mez Works sources its materials from salvage lumber yards within 200 miles of the shop, often traveling to Sacramento or the Bay Area for enormous hardwood slabs that have been drying out for years—and single pieces can cost as much as $5,500.
“My utmost focus is quality,” says Gomez. “We’re not reinventing the wheel by any means; woodworking and steel work have been around for hundreds of years obviously. Nothing’s perfect…but I want builders to see my things and to appreciate the quality and the effort that went into them.”
Gomez’s finely tuned attention to detail is something he credits to his photography experience, and while the price of the raw materials—coupled with the painstaking hours that go into each piece—land the final products in the high-end price range, Gomez and his team at Mez Works are still booked for projects months in advance.
“We price accordingly, but we also try to price fairly so (anyone) can save up for something and afford it,” Gomez says. “Up until 2016, we shipped about 80 percent of our products cross-country—all freight.”
The Mez Works full-time team now includes Gomez, Halperin, and Gomez’s former roommate, Nick Poohachoff. As they continue to expand, Gomez credits a lot of his success to their thriving web presence—a necessity for the modern craftsman.
From receiving orders through their own website and Etsy pages, to promoting sales and new items to thousands of followers on Instagram and Facebook, Gomez believes he couldn’t have gotten where he is without the internet.
“We really want to get our showroom so you can physically feel and touch our tables, but right now our showroom is online,” he says. “It really bums me out to see a lot of these older craftsmen who are extremely talented, and way more talented than I ever will be, but they can’t keep up with the times and get a good web presence.”
While expansion and a brick-and-mortar showroom are the next steps for Gomez and his team, for now, he and Halperin are content to live and work in South Lake, walking their 4-year-old Lab to the beach in the summer or enjoying powder days at the Sierra-At-Tahoe Resort when they get some time off—a routine they don’t intend to change.
“I think even if we were to move down to the Bay Area or have a shop down there, we’d always have a shop here, we’d always have this core here,” says Gomez. “This will always be home.”