Starting from scratch in a new country is difficult for some, but Steele Xiao, a native of China, has established a successful business with Homeway Ornamental Metals. Though he had 20 years of experience with the ironwork business in his native land, he knew that the adjustment to a new country, culture and way of life would be completely different.
“I had no idea what to expect,” he says of moving here. But he got right to work when, “I spent six months traveling the country… visiting friends and learning about the markets here,” he says. During this time, he also learned the English language, and he says, “I decided that I needed to open a local store, and work directly with customers.”
By eliminating the middleman, Xiao believes his business is more efficient. He orders products from China and has them shipped to a 3,000-square-foot warehouse in Kenner. The store is in Metairie where several of the designs are showcased and available for purchase.
The majority of his customers come in to buy ornamental metal pieces, such as balconies, railings and gates. Doors of brass and copper are popular items (the front doors of Sake Café and Five Happiness come from Homeway), and he also offers a variety of marble mantels, many of them decorated with intricate patterns.
“I can work with commercial or residential [establishments],” he says.
Xiao is starting to phase out his line of modern glass sinks to focus on the ironwork, doors and mantels. In addition to his Metairie store, Xiao will be showcasing some of these items later this month at the New Orleans Home & Garden Show at the Louisiana Superdome.