A Master of Creativity and Illusion

Article Katherine Bontrager | Photography Christina Sandberg & Supplied

Tom Stein is adept at magic—both the slight-of-hand and illusion variety. One he uses to wow customers at The Drop in Martini Corner; the other he uses to transform wood to creatively “hide utility in elegance.”

Stein is a true Renaissance man, one whose story is as intriguing as the magic he works with his hands. After college he went into finance and quickly landed a job at a Fortune-25 bank. While many would view the move as a success, Stein says he “felt like a caged animal, working with numbers, inside, not seeing the sun, and doing work that left me feeling a bit empty. So I did what any rational person would do: work hard, earn a bonus, and quit.”

Now free from the “soulless job” he hated, Stein still needed to earn a living. Bartending was a perfect fit.

“I’ve always loved good beer, and the Flying Saucer offered me a place to enjoy one of my loves and earn a bit of income,” Stein says.

Things were falling nicely into place for Stein as he carved out a life that was comfortable and fulfilling. Part of that comfort was thanks to his wife, Julie. That’s not to say there weren’t some compromises…and a bit of creative illusion.

“When my wife and I moved in together, she said that I couldn’t keep one of my man toys, my beer fridge, in our apartment,” Stein says.

“So again I did the rational thing and hid it inside an end table. This way my wife got a living room she was comfortable entertaining in, and I kept a bit of my man cave.”

His clever thinking resonated with Stein’s friends, who told him they loved the blend of design and deception of his aptly named “Man Table.” Intrigued by the interest, he started making more of the tables, which seamlessly hid a mini fridge in the attractive confines of a wooden end table. The move got Stein back into woodworking after a six- year hiatus. (He’d worked with wood for years as a boy and teen, but stopped when he cut the pads off two of his fingers.)

“The Man Table is made using rock maple and old-world craftsmanship and is great for living rooms as well as offices,” Stein says. “We can hide them in plain sight because the cooling technology we use is thermo electric. This runs whisper quiet, so if you want to hide your good beer when friends come over, they’ll not find where you’ve stashed it.”

When Beer Advocate, a beer rating website, ran an article on Man Tables (ManTables.com), sales increased beyond Stein’s ability to meet demand. So he turned to the trusted and skilled labor of the Amish.

“These craftsmen, specifically Joseph Burkholder and company, have been my production partners since that time,” Stein says. “They currently make the wooden parts of the Man Tables as well as our newest product, Knight Stands. The Knight Stand is a nightstand that hides a finger-access trapdoor safe inside. What makes the Knight Stand so unique is that you can have access to whatever you have inside in less then a second, while concealing the fact that there is anything to conceal.”

Thanks to the help of his craftsmen, Stein jokes that he was once again left with too much time on his hands.

“So after picking up slight-of-hand magic and moving to a cocktail bar, The Drop, I decided to spend time off making custom products, such as cutting boards and rolling pins, for my mother and mother-in-law,” Stein says. “They loved them, and I loved to work with the exotic and reclaimed woods that have such unique character, giving every piece a personality that blends the every day useful with the quietly chic.”

These pieces gave way to yet another business venture, Timeless Handcrafted (TimelessHandcrafted.com), where people can purchase Stein’s exquisitely crafted cutting and serving boards made from multiple woods that range in grain from red heart to lace wood. The cutting boards can even be custom engraved for wedding and housewarming gifts. The rolling pins are incredibly unique, created with multiple colors brought together by pairing American hardwoods and turning them on a very biased cut.

The company also makes one-of-a-kind harvest tables, which offer a rustic balance of black steel (made by an Amish blacksmith) and 100- to 250-year-old reclaimed wood. Similarly composed kitchen shelves offer sturdy and dynamic storage.

“All Timeless products are made to give people more options to express their personality while entertaining,” Stein says. “All have a purpose to fulfill and are made for use in the kitchen or wherever groups gather. We offer unique proprietary products that have an elegant twist.”

Between the side tables, the bartending, the magic, and the kitchen pieces, you’d think Stein would be tapped. Yet this conjurer has yet more hidden up his sleeve.

“We also have custom-made desks that blend reclaimed woods and steel that exude a very masculine feel,” he says. “We can handle unique design needs. If you have a challenge, we want to solve it. We recently had a client that needed custom-designed floating closets, and we provided them.”

With Father’s Day just around the corner, Stein is preparing for a run on Man Tables.

“Father’s Day is one of our three busiest times of the year,” he says. “I like to say that every man deserves a man cave, even if it’s hiding in his wife’s living room.”

David Gentile, president and CEO of Blue KC Management, swears by his Man Table—so much so that he proceeded to buy one for each of his brothers and brothers-in-law—five in total!

“I saw it and found it to be exactly what a guy would love to own,” Gentile says. “It’s a great functional piece to have in key places in the house or in the man cave…which I don’t have, but this helps me pretend I have one. It’s also a great conversation piece.”

Truly, there’s not much about Stein’s story that doesn’t make for intriguing discussion. Whether you find him conjuring cocktails at The Drop or working a new wooden wonder, one thing is certain: this Renaissance man is most definitely innovating.

“Some ideas are great, some are not,” he says. “But I love to hide utility inside elegance. To surprise people with every day life.”

If you want to see the master in action, Wednesday nights he’s perfecting potions behind the bar at The Drop…magic tricks included.