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Former meat market now hosts canvas shop

Canvas Tech is now open. Standing in front of the building are Melecia Chavez, Rick Low, Christopher Low, Steven Low, Cody Taylor and Jake Anderson. Not pictured is Gene Taylor. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Following an auction liquidating all the assets, the former Fresh Start Meat Market - more widely known as the former Shamp's Meat Market - in Pine River had a lot of open space, thanks to the lack of coolers. That made it a perfect space for a new canvas and upholstery shop.

Rick Low, a Backus resident for the past five years, decided the building would be perfect to get back into the business he and his brother ran in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. To that end, he opened Canvas Technology on May 28 with plans to expand already on the drawing board.

Low has a lot of experience in the business. He and his brother grew up in Stillwater, but when he was 18 they moved to Florida to work in the canvas and upholstery business, a trade his brother learned from an uncle.

"He decided it was a profitable business," Low said. "He hated the cold and asked where there were more boats. Florida."

Low ran the business there until 2013, while also operating as a Saltwater Ventures TV cameraman and an instant replay operator for the Miami Dolphins on game days. When his mother needed more care, he and his wife, Melecia Chavez, came back to Minnesota to help her. Low worked in Brainerd under another company for the next five years before purchasing the Pine River building just off Highway 371.

Low said they will sew practically anything that fits on their tables, and while their name suggests they work primarily in canvas and upholstery, their services don't stop there.

"We make covers for every custom cover you can think of for ATVs, snowmobile seats, interiors in pontoons, the decking for pontoons and boats," Low said. "We remove the wood and replace it with new vinyl flooring or carpeting or whatever they wish to have. Then the tops, covers and enclosures. All that stuff. It's a pretty wide range. Somebody brought us a cover for a pickup that needed to be patched, and a suitcase that needed mending. If we can put it on the machine and fix it without having to buy a new one, we'll fix it up."

The company has facilities to bend stainless steel tubing to repair or replace damaged boat and pontoon covers, a capability that he says isn't always available at other upholstery repair shops. To top that off, Low and his crew bring their experience working on yachts and enormous ocean boats to the lakes area.

The company has five employees with plans to expand the building, staff and services in short order. The company has plans for a plotter machine capable of quickly scanning projects, measuring dimensions and cutting out pieces quickly and with the least amount of material, which Low said will save customers both time and money.

In addition, projects can be saved for later use on identical models or for mass production for businesses like hotels, which may need new upholstery for many of the same style of chair.

"If someone brings us a Lund boat and wants us to do a cover for a 2012 Lund boat, we'll be able to do that same boat for somebody else, or if someone loses their cover on the road," Low said. "We can just ship it to them."

It may not be a meat market, but Low is determined to bring the building back to life.

"The business is one that not everyone knows how to do," Low said. "We have certain experiences not everyone who lives here has to deal with."