Voices of the Bay

Going with the Grain

Water Street Woodworking's Chris Holland

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It’s always been about working with wood for Chris Holland, which fueled his purchase last spring of Warren’s Water Street Woodworking, housed for over 30 years in the historic Moyes Garage. Growing up between Saunderstown and Barrington, Chris’s journey back to the East Bay included travels to Chile, Panama, Colorado, and the Southwest, education at CCRI, RISD, and graduating from Burlington College’s Vermont School of Woodworking, and jobs in construction and house building. The artisan wood-maker takes pride that his distinctive cabinetry and furniture have an heirloom quality and are created individually to his customer’s wishes. Chris also has a new line of smaller products including cutting boards, vegetable muddlers, and surfcasting plugs available for sale at Warren’s Ink Fish Books on Main Street. A passionate outdoorsman, he enjoys hunting and surf fishing. Water Street Woodworking, 332 Water Street, Warren.

"I was that hands-on kid. My dad always had a drill press and chop saw. We’d do little stuff. I grew up skateboarding, so, ‘Hey, mom and dad, I want a large ramp, here’s a drawing, will you buy the materials and I’ll build it?’ Later on, in high school, my parents said, ‘You need to get a summer job.’ I got hooked up with one of the best contractors in Barrington, Jay Gasbarro. I learned so much, one of the best summers of my life.

With woodworking, there are a hundred ways to do something. Before I bought from Mike Mongeon, I worked side-by-side with him to learn his business and his processes. My cabinetry is essential furniture; there are no screws, nails, or staples in the box. There is just joinery, glue, and three-quarter wood, so it is built to stay. I work primarily with homeowners who want their cabinets customized, unlike the cookie cutter cabinets built to only one size or style.

In the summer, if we aren’t spraying, I leave open the huge slider door and people walking by will stop in and enjoy learning what we do. It’s been really great to work with the local business owners in Warren. I made a spruce bar top for Prica Farina, the pasta shop, and I’m working on a huge counter out of cherry for Ink Fish, the new bookstore on Main Street.

I honestly never thought I would be back in the East Bay. I’ve lived all over, traveled, and have had a lot of great experiences, and some eye-opening stuff, which made me realize what a great opportunity it is to be here and grow the business. Being able to come in here, flip the switches, and have everything ready to work – it’s like a gift. To practice the craft and see my progression every day is a dream."