Luxurious Refurbished & Repurposed Rustic Furniture
Al Herrera has been working with metal since he was 16. An older gentleman taught him how to weld and do repairs on the job as a teenager, and he told Al, “You’ll use these skills for the rest of your life.” It looks like he was right. Decades later, Al has beautiful, unique metal pieces all over town. Originally Al owned a golf cart shop in the same Walnut Boulevard shopping strip that he’s still in now. After about 12 years in that spot, the building next door became available, and Al didn’t hesitate to scoop it up. “I took the building thinking I’d turn it into a golf cart showroom,” said Al. “I ended up bringing tool after tool and then started welding just for fun, making gifts for people.” One thing led to another, and Al decided working with metal would be more fun. So, with the support of his wife of over 44 years, Rita, he set up his metal shop in the next-door location and became known as Big Al’s Heavy Metal Furniture. Then about a year ago, Al had the opportunity to obtain the end storefront on the strip and knock down the wall between the two buildings to now have a storefront/showroom, as well as a metal shop and wood shop.
As word began to spread and work continued to roll in, Al realized that he needed help to keep up with all of his orders. After putting out a “Help Needed” sign on the sidewalk, Al was blessed with the best metal fabricator, Scotty, and carpenter, Anthony. The trio has been beautifying homes and businesses throughout Brentwood and beyond ever since. “It was fun, but it got to be really busy and backed up,” said Al. “They do the hard stuff, and I do the fun stuff. I love it.” Al did, however, have some rules for the newcomers. “I told them when I hired them, ‘I have three rules: no drama, no politics, and no calling in sick unless you’re dying because we’ve got work.’” They certainly do have work; Al is now booking through July.
Big Al’s Heavy Metal Furniture mainly creates ornamental pieces for both inside and outside of the house. Anything from BBQs, smokers, fire pits, signs, arbors, fences, gates, whatever you can imagine. “We build it all,” said Al. “We build things that people want, not what they need and that brings them in.” Not only does Al make individualized pieces for people’s homes, he has also created some amazing things that residents enjoy daily around town. “I think the most popular thing I’ve made is the Big Red Chair in City Park,” said Al. “I absolutely love it. Almost daily I drive by and someone’s always on it taking pictures.” Al also created an even larger chair that ended up at the Discovery Bay Yacht Club, painted blue and lovingly named Papa Smurf. Al has created outdoor bars, tables, chairs and signs for downtown businesses like Zephyr Bar & Grill, Co. Co. County Wine Co., Brentwood Fine Meats, Rubiano’s, and Salt & Fig. However, you will never find two pieces alike. “They all had to be different. When you get something from us, it’s a one-off. You won’t find it at your neighbor’s house, and people love that.” Big Al’s Heavy Metal Furniture’s creations can also be spotted at Serendipity Cellars (large barn door, indoor and outdoor light fixtures, and more) and Hannah Nicole Vineyards (tables).
Word is spreading about Al’s incredible work. He has mailed pieces off to New York, Washington, Oregon, and all over California. “Things are happening; we’re making some noise,” said Al. “I think every project we’re working on is my favorite. It’s like we’re pulling out our hair to complete it and make everything work, and then once it’s done, we go, ‘Wow, we did that!’” His longest project took him about three months to complete, which was a smoker he built from top to bottom with the original intention of keeping it for himself. A walk-in customer had a different idea and ended up taking that smoker home with him in the end. “That was one that I really wanted. So, I have another old tank that I’ll transform and keep as the shop smoker on display.”
With everyone stuck at home staring at their empty or unfinished walls during the pandemic, Al and his crew remained busy. “We shut down for about a month, but I’d come in myself to get stuff done and the phone kept ringing. We survived that; now it’s just a matter of rolling with the work orders.” Al encourages anyone who’s looking for something one-of-a-kind and personalized, to stop by, bring photos or ideas for inspiration, and let him help you bring your vision to life. “I just want people to know that when they get something from us, they build it with us,” said Al. “We bring them in half way through the project so that they know what they’re getting when it’s done. It is their design; there are no surprises.” The team at Big Al’s Heavy Metal Furniture wants you to absolutely love what you take home in the end, and they will continue working on it until you do. “I never want someone to settle for any of our pieces,” said Al. “I want them to wake up every day and say, ‘I love that,’ not, ‘I wish I would’ve had him do this differently.’ And if someone feels that way, bring it back and we’ll make it right!”
By: Michelle Lassle Photos by: Ron Essex Photography