Natural light floods into a small Cal Heights home bedroom, cascading over stacks of woven furniture—frayed rush, splintered rattan, damaged Danish cord and threadbare shaker tape. The battered furniture is not on its way to the dump, but rather awaiting restoration by the now-calloused hands of Ghermayn Baker.
For eight months, Baker and his wife Christina Powers—both weary of the rat-race of corporate life—have operated Point By Point Studio out of their historic home, with Powers handling more of the business aspect, while Baker focuses on restoration.
“I was extremely burned out, and it was affecting me physically and mentally,” Baker said. “I knew I needed to take a break and, more importantly, find something that was much more value-aligned to me.”
For his entire life, Baker, 32, was on a corporate career trajectory, he said. He moved from the East Coast to attend UCLA, which led him to marketing. By July 2020, Baker was hired into an executive position with Long Beach-based Human-I-T, a nonprofit that refurbishes donated computers and other technology to provide to low-income people.
Baker had always wanted to do good and, on paper, his new job seemed perfect. With the pandemic raging on, Human-I-T became a crucial partner with Long Beach Unified School District, providing computers and internet hotspots to countless students as education went online.
Meanwhile, Powers, 31, grew up in Seal Beach. She packed up and moved to attend Northwestern University and then worked around the country for 13 years, with long stints in New York and Washington, D.C.
The pandemic, of course, put a stop to that. Being relegated to work from home in her tiny D.C. apartment, Powers said she quickly got burned out and decided to move back to the West Coast. She moved to Long Beach, where she had fond memories, and continued her corporate job remotely.
“I never had a home base until I moved to Long Beach,” she said.
Powers and Baker met in July 2021 and had their first date at HiroNori, the popular craft ramen joint in Bixby Knolls. They hit it off immediately. By November, they had moved into the Cal Heights home together. And by February 2022, they were married.
Amid their whirlwind romance, Powers had enough of her corporate job, which she quit in September 2021. After years working as a business consultant with McKinsey & Company, she decided to actually work for a small business—Gusto Bread—to get that first-hand, front-of-house experience.
For Baker, whose long hours stole days with loved ones—all while being far removed from the good his work was doing—his tipping point came two days after the couple wed, when he quit his job.
Having just married, the couple decided to enjoy some time together before they “figured it out,” Baker said. In April, all their activity caught up to Baker, when he broke two bones in his foot in what he described only as a “freak accident.”
“All of a sudden, I was just chillin’ on the couch, couldn’t do anything for like two months,” Baker said. “But it was a blessing in disguise because it really allowed me to do something I’ve always really wanted to: explore my artistic and creative side.”
Growing up, Baker said he had loved sketching and building “crazy sculptures” with popsicle sticks and toothpicks. So he started drawing, baking—anything with his hands.
Powers, while working at Gusto, still did a little consulting on the side. One of her clients was vintage furniture store Dazzles in the Palm Springs area.
The couple would browse the store’s inventory every time they ventured out to the desert.
“We noticed they had so much beautiful cane and rattan and bamboo furniture, but all of it was broken,” Powers said. “And they were struggling to find people who could fix it—the folks they knew either had died or were retiring.”
With his days wide open due to his injury, Baker’s interest was piqued.
The couple bought some chairs from Dazzles and a book on caning from Amazon, and in May 2022, Baker caned his first chair. He said the process took him about 35 hours over several weeks. (The same job today would take him 16-20 hours, he noted.)
“I loved it,” Baker said. “It really scratched that creative itch.”
The enjoyment and satisfaction he gained in his new hobby quickly grew, spawning the idea to turn the skill into a new career path that would offer the life he had longed for. Over the next six months, the couple did some market research, started branding and officially formed their business in November.
One of the aspects that appealed to the pair was the opposition to consumerism and the modern world’s throw-away culture, which more often than not sees people throwing away broken or worn out goods, rather than fixing or restoring them.
“We live in a world that’s really focused on production and consumption,” Powers said. “We explicitly did not want to create new products—we wanted to fix what already exists.”
Point By Point offers a variety of refurbishing services, and Baker is not shy about taking on new challenges. He will tackle anything weave-based, including various styles and patterns using different materials such as rattan, rush, Danish cord, shaker tape and bamboo.
Some pieces, such as those made during the Great Depression, for instance, use synthetic materials rather than the natural ones Baker works with. In those instances, Baker will replace the synthetics with natural materials, which are a higher quality, he said.
“A lot of our customers have had pieces handed down from their grandparents—furniture that’s been around in their families since the 1930s, sometimes even before that,” Baker said. “As a craftsperson, I really appreciate … that I get to work on these old pieces, fix them and make sure that these family heirlooms can be passed along to future generations.”
It is not cheap work, Baker admitted (pricing is posted here), but customers see the significance of saving these pieces, especially if they hold sentimental value, he said.
Not all of Point By Point’s work, however, is done on vintage furniture. As part of their efforts to upcycle and reduce waste by making furniture more sustainable, the pair does not shun clients who purchased their goods from Ikea, Wayfair and other “fast furniture” producers.
While the various weaving processes have similarities, Baker noted that each type of material and style has a unique history behind it. Part of his work is to honor those histories and the cultures they come from, he said.
“There’s something that’s sort of ancestral about this,” Baker, a Black man, said. “These are practices that have been around for thousands of years. It feels like I’m helping to pass the craft on through the furniture itself.”
Baker said it is nearly impossible to learn the practice without facing the cultures it originated from and trying to understand them. When you sit down to weave a single piece for dozens of hours, he noted that’s a lot of time to think—time he likes to spend thinking about the cultures he is emulating.
“Understanding the material, where it comes from—I just found that to be a prerequisite,” Baker said.
To the best of Baker’s knowledge, Point By Point is the only Black-owned business dedicated to woven furniture repair. While the niche craft is dominated by older white men today, he said the U.S. has a rich history of Black caners, especially in the south.
The couple plans to delve much deeper into the various histories of weaving, which is a common thread among the world’s cultures, Powers, who is Asian American, said.
Just as understanding these cultures is important, Baker and Powers said building a community is equally so. The couple has gotten to know their neighbors throughout Cal Heights, with many becoming customers, along with antique and vintage stores, party supply rentals and more.
“I think people like community and real, genuine connection,” Powers said. “That’s something this work really brings. It’s cool to really contribute to what’s around us and the local economy.”
The work Baker and Powers are doing, though, has garnered attention from more than just the local community. Point By Point was named one of the Bruin Business 100 by UCLA this year, which the couple said is refreshing when so much of the entrepreneurial world is so focused on innovation and disruption. Baker also is a recipient of the 2023 Furniture Society’s Educational Grant, which will allow him to refine his craft at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina.
As their business grows, however, the couple’s house is quickly becoming a tight fit for their operation. Baker said they aren’t necessarily looking for their own storefront, but that a shared makers’ workshop or community space would be an ideal situation—think ghost kitchen, but for artisan goods rather than food.
In addition to expanding the repair work itself, Powers said the couple has received a lot of feedback from people who would like to learn the skills Baker has taught himself. So, in their endless pursuit of cultivating community, another future move of Point By Point will be to offer classes.
“We don’t want to gatekeep this craft because it’s already something that’s pretty inaccessible,” Baker said. “I would love to teach classes and love for more people to know this craft because it can be very personally rewarding.”