A business primed for patio furniture

At Patty’s Portico in Port Chester – say that three times fast – patio furniture is restored to its past luster.

One spring Saturday, Patty DeFelice — owner of Patty’s Portico in Port Chester — received a call from a woman identifying herself as Martha Stewart, saying she’d like to come in with some pieces of mid-century modern outdoor furnishings that she purchased at an estate sale in January for her Bedford farm.

Yeah, right:  DeFelice thought it was one of her friends playing a prank. It turns out, however, that it really was Stewart, who showed up at DeFelice’s 5,000-square-foot workshop — tucked away from Main Street on Highland Street near L & M Roofing — with two truckloads of 25 pieces.

DeFelice recognized Stewart right away. “She didn’t have any makeup on, but she was just beautiful,” DeFelice says. But Stewart — who would write a delighted blog post about the experience — also recognized her. That’s because Patty’s Portico is well-known to those seeking to have their beloved metalwork resurrected. Outdoor furnishings are just the beginning for a 26-year-old business that embraces everything from Victorian radiators to hobby horses. The heart of the business, however, is patio furniture restoration and sales involving powder-coated finishes in every hue using an electrostatic process.

First the metal pieces are sandblasted to remove the old paint and rust. Then the pieces are sprayed with an anti-corrosive, durable zinc-infused primer. They’re baked at 375 degrees in the company’s 10-foot-long oven. Then they’re finished in powder paints and baked again to seal the deal. “No runs,” DeFelice says, “no drips, no errors.”

As she talks, she is seated amid a prime example of her work — a square, translucent Brown Jordan table, with four chairs, all of whose metal has been painted an eggplant shade that matches her cold-shoulder dress. Above her a Brown Jordan chair in a slightly different style and a lighter purple hangs like an outdoor lamp. The set, which she picked up and restored with the intention of selling it, stands out amid the black, gray, dark-green and white pieces. (Stewart’s 25-plus pieces were painted a soft “Bedford gray.”) So does a set painted lime green for a customer.

The furnishings aren’t all that stands out. DeFelice has succeeded in a business that has mainly been home to men. (She works with three of them and hires a driver part-time as needed.) She started out in a business that has traditionally been even more alien to women — an auto-body shop.

Her father, Louis DeFelice, began the Greenwich business in 1932. When he had a heart attack in 1976, Patty — the younger of two daughters, who had graduated from Greenwich High School and Manhattanville College in Purchase with a master’s degree in teaching — offered to come in to answer the phones until he got back on his feet. Thirty years later, she was still there at what became Louis DeFelice & Daughter, armed with a knowledge of how to repair and repaint cars. 

More than that, her close personal and working relationship with her father taught her how to deal with customers.

“You’re building relationships and to me that is what is most important,” she says. “I’m interested in the person, because when we do something, it’s going to last a long time.”

Her father died in 1998 and DeFelice sold the business in 2006. But by then, she had also transitioned to restoring metalwork for the home. (She says she still gets calls for auto-body referrals, however.) In 1994, a customer of her father’s, Thomas Rodda, M.D., asked if she would paint some furniture for him. DeFelice not only gave it a go; she put an ad in a local newspaper to gauge interest. She’s been busy ever since.

Not even the pandemic offered a respite for a woman whose workday starts at 7 a.m. All those men taking Zoom meetings on their decks — and it was men, not women — were noticing their peeling furnishings. Spring and summer are, of course, prime seasons. But winter is a time to prepare for the next outdoor season, DeFelice says. That’s when she turns her attention to her commercial customers, like country clubs. (Besides advocating that people do their metalwork repairs over the winter, DeFelice suggests storing furnishings that are in good condition unstacked indoors so they don’t get damaged. If they must be outdoors, use patio furniture covers, like those from HomeDepot.com, Frontgate and Wayfair, rather than tarp.)

Business is so good that she could expand. “I’m always thinking about it,” she says but adds, “bigger is not necessarily better. Right now I’m happy doing what I’m doing.”

For more, visit pattysportico.com.

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