New York's venerable Blatt Billiards shows its custom pool tables at ICFF
Blatt Billiards' Jeff Roeder, left, and Brian Roeder, at ICFF
A noticeable East Village establishment for decades, Manhattan’s family-owned Blatt Billiards store, which was founded in 1923, left the neighborhood in 2014, moving its showroom to 330 W. 38 St. and workshop to Wood-Ridge, N.J.
But Blatt’s tradition of handcrafting custom pool tables continues, as evidenced at the high-end luxury 2019 ICFF furniture fair at New York’s Javits Center.
“It’s a functional piece of art,” said Brian Roeder at the fair’s opening day yesterday. He was referring to the eight-foot display table—a beautiful piece made of white rift-sewn oak, with a custom hand-rubbed ceruse wood stain finish.”
“But we’re not just selling entertainment,” added Roeder, who heads the company’s sales and marketing activities. “We like to say, ‘Not all families gather around the dinner table.’ Pool tables bring people together, too.”
Roeder’s display table also stood out for its decorative blue floral play surface pattern.
“Green felt is the traditional play surface,” he said, “but in today’s world, it’s all about design. We can get creative to match a room décor, or use artwork supplied electronically by the customer.”
It’s a long way from Blatt Billiards’ origins, when the company fixed cue sticks and pool balls—one of hundreds of billiards shops servicing the immense pool hall business in New York.
“It was a men’s sport, then, and when World War II started, the men went to war--and a lot of pool halls went out of business,” said Roeder. “Blatt collected a lot of the pool tables—which were antiques—and that’s how he built up the inventory.”
A Czechoslovakian immigrant, Roeder’s grandfather Eric Roeder found custodial work in New York, then worked his way up at Blatt to where he became so integral to the company that he was made partner. And with a concurrent influx of skilled immigrants, Blatt was also able to offer pool table restoration as well as custom table production.
“It was a fun spot,” said Roeder of the old Blatt Billiards address, a five-story edifice with showrooms on the first two floors and manufacturing on the top three.
“People would come from all over world to see their tables being built.”
Having left the venerable location, Roeder concedes “a bit of a loss of identity,” but the product quality is still there. Indeed, a custom pool table takes four-to-six months to produce.
Now headed by Roeder’s father and two uncles and also staffed by his cousins Jeff (head craftsman) and Matt (operations manager), Blatt Billiards makes both traditional and handcrafted pool tables as well as pool/dining combination tables and handcrafted museum-quality lighting fixtures. Its workshop houses nearly 3,000 tables, including restored antiques.