Hardwood Furnishings at Sup Design

Sup Design by Peter Schmitdke / photos by Tess Reiss

Martin Dietrich runs his hand over a newly varnished bar top that is propped on a couple of garbage cans in his Sup Design shop. “The wood doesn’t look at all like that when it comes in,” he says. Dietrich points to a dozen or so industrial saws, sanding machines, and planers, and explains how each one contributed in transforming a rough chunk of wood into something that will be a fixture in his client’s home upon which drinks and meals will be served for generations. Along with bar tops, Dietrich says Sup does everything from coffee tables and dining and bedroom sets to architectural restoration projects in which they design moldings and furniture to match the historical decor of a home or business. All of this, from the sketching and drafting of the designs to the construction itself, is carried out by just Dietrich and three other craftsmen inside a large brick building at 3275 N. Pierce St. just south of Concordia. And since 27-year-old Dietrich is constantly smiling, it doesn’t take long to realize the 60 hours he puts in here each week are more than just a meal ticket. (Dietrich is happy to point out that he lives close by on Booth St. with his wife Nikki, a nursing student, and his son Clay, 3). Dietrich credits his father, a furniture and cabinet maker for 38 years, for his love of design. “He was always bringing work home with him — some people take on little projects, my dad would redo a whole kitchen.” Dietrich’s father, Konrad, grew up in Germany and went through an apprenticeship which Dietrich says “required that one master the art of hand craftsmanship.” In school, Dietrich designed and built a bed out of metal and wood. “It looked like a big bridge, with steel tresses and rails and everything,” he says laughing. In his early 20’s, Dietrich took this zeal for design and joined another partner in business in Racine. When he had learned the basics, he left to join his father in their new business, Sup design, which they located in leased space a few blocks east of Humboldt and North Ave. After four years, they moved to their present location on Pierce, a 1920’s-era former sausage factory of which Dietrich has been half-owner for the past two years. “And everything is custom made,” Dietrich says from behind a stack of blueprints in his corner office. “It’s really up to the client — from the materials used down to the fasteners, hardware, and finish.” He estimates they use wood for approximately 95 percent of their projects, including maple, birch, walnut, cherry and mahogany. “We do use some steel and aluminum and even acrylic and glass, but we let other shops do the actual fabricating with those.” Although they do not advertise, Dietrich’s desk is filled with orders. “We’ve somehow caught the word-of-mouth market,” he says with a laugh. He says they usually are involved with anywhere from three to a dozen projects at once. Sup has undertaken projects at establishments including both Hooligan’s and Centanni’s bar downtown. Sup also designed and constructed the patio furniture at Trocadero and the desks for the reception area at Pewaukee High School. “But we’ve also done residential work, including two in Riverwest where we did a kitchen and a living room that included a fireplace, mantle, and bookcase.” Regarding prices for Sup’s work, Dietrich says he tailors contracts to the needs of clients. “I can provide the same design for someone and just change the materials to meet a budget.” There is a 2 to 8 week waiting period for orders, which Dietrich says varies according to the project. Meanwhile, the work keeps rolling in, and Dietrich has hired help to ease the strain. Bill Backes, who plays in the band “The Lovelies,” joined Sup seven months ago, and Dave Nielsen started in early March. “Bill and my dad pretty much hold down the fort with the fabrication, while Dave and I manage the designing,” Dietrich says, adding that they all fill in with tasks as needed. “As labor-intensive and as jumbled as the schedules can get, we’re not pulling our hair out,” Dietrich says. “We’re light-hearted guys.” Sup Design can be contacted at 963-9039 or at , and examples of their work can be viewed at Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 4 – April 2003
Sup Design

Martin Dietrich, Bill Backes, Konrad Dietrich, and David Nelson at Sup. (Pronounced “soup.”)