In a warehouse lot in Fort Lauderdale, where each pale pink door looks the same as its neighbor, one space stands out. Its garage door is wide open to expose an intimate studio perfectly arranged for a woodworker. Inside, you'll find Robert Cortes, the founder, owner, and sole employee of Grove + Anchor — a handcrafted furniture gallery — who's earned an impressive local following, particularly on social media.
Think of him as South Florida's furniture bae.
For three years now, Cortes has been crafting magnificent pieces of wooden furniture from his petite studio space. It’s hard to believe Grove + Anchor originated in his bathroom. No, really. Before moving into a proper studio, Cortes used the extra bathroom in his apartment as his home office to store, cut, and finish pieces of furniture.
The 31-year-old craftsman first moved to Miami in 2006. Fresh out of high school with a handful of cash in his pocket and not a care in the world, Cortes bid adieu to his Brooklyn, New York, home and made his way south. After four years of living the South Beach lifestyle, he sat down to reevaluate the direction his life was heading. In his living room, he fixed his gaze on a coffee table his dad had made for him. His next thought was effortless: I want to make that, he said to himself.
In 2010, he enrolled in a trade school in Brooklyn. After completing the 18-month course, he had a two-year apprenticeship in Kansas City, Missouri. Cortes moved back to Miami in the spring of 2015 and opened Grove + Anchor within a few months.
When it came time to select the name for his shop, Cortes admits with a sly grin that he just wanted something that sounded cool. “I stumbled upon Grove and Anchor and ended up giving it a special meaning. ‘Grove’ for trees and wood, which is what I use in my shop. And then ‘anchor,’ because for me it symbolizes staying grounded and staying true to the craft by doing everything by hand.”
Lifting his arms to touch the brim of his black baseball cap, he exposes the tattoo of an anchor on his left forearm. The same image is stamped onto his leather and cloth apron that hangs in the corner.
In the rear of the room, next to a shadow box displaying photos of his wife and newborn son, Cortes keeps a sepia-toned newspaper clipping from a 1981 edition of the New York Daily News. The headline reads “Cortes carves a niche.” He takes the framed article off the wall, wipes the dust from the glass, and recites his favorite line from the piece. It’s a quote from his father: “I am convinced that anyone who wants to succeed in the United States can do it. All it takes is some determination and good old hard work.” Cortes looks up and smiles, an expression full of both pride and sadness.
“He hasn’t been able to experience any of this with me and it was very tough at the beginning,” says the furniture maker, admitting it’s a bit of a touchy subject.
His father was a sought-after craftsman in New York, so a young Cortes grew up around the smell of sawdust and the sound of a woodcutter. Becoming a carpenter himself, he says, is a form of honoring his dad. Due to Cortes Sr.'s health, he has not been able to leave New York and visit his son’s shop.
Despite the separation from his family in New York, Cortes says he decided to work harder and with much more pride, “so even though my dad can’t physically see what I’m doing, he knows that the reason I started doing all of this was in favor of him, and it’s something that fuels me at this point.”
When Cortes first branched out on his own three years ago, he says most of his business came from his Etsy page. To better showcase his work, he started an Instagram page (@groveandanchor) that quickly increased demand for his creations.
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“I don’t have a catalog of pieces for people to choose from,” he says, twisting his wedding band as he rocks back and forth on a metal chair in his workspace. “So I use Instagram as a platform to showcase my work and invite people into my day-to-day.” He also uses the social media platform to build relationships with consumers and his 10,500 followers.
His popularity on Instagram has allowed Cortes to focus solely on local custom orders and build larger-scale pieces. In addition to the occasional nightstand and coffee table, the furniture maker is creating
“At the end of the day," he says, "everything I make is personal.”
Visit groveandanchor.com and @GroveandAnchor on Instagram. Shoppers can also find some of Cortes’ work at three West Elm stores in South Florida — Gulfstream Park, Midtown, and Dadeland — as part of the furniture store’s local spotlight.