Healthy Furniture Supports Healthy Homes and Environment
When you first spot the horse-drawn carriage outside the dual showrooms of Amish Home Furnishings in Daytona Beach, the symbol evoking another time and locale might appear a bit out of place on busy Ridgewood Avenue.
But how and why the traditional Old-World quality and craftsmanship of Amish furniture became the centerpiece of this longtime Volusia County store is a big part of its ongoing popularity. As Operations Manager Bill Blandy explains, the company’s return to its roots as a purveyor of top-quality, solid hardwood furnishings has paid out many unexpected, “almost accidental” environmental dividends.
Founded in 1981 by Blandy’s father, the business originally sold unfinished solid-wood furniture and subsequently added finishing. However, the store’s business declined when consumers began turning to bargain foreign imports. The demand for inexpensive, disposable products from overseas forced Blandy and others in the industry to work with new suppliers. “The imported lines filled the dumpster with packaging material and the showroom with the unmistakable scent of chemicals,” recalls Blandy, who eventually had an epiphany. “The import products weren’t solid wood. We were disappointed with the quality. Our customers trusted us to supply them with a quality product.”
Blandy decided to go back to basics and went looking again for American products. Unfortunately, he found very little furniture still being manufactured in the United States. “We had lost most of our key vendors to overseas competition. And we were really torn what to do. We considered going out of business.”
Instead, Blandy’s search led him to the Amish community, primarily an enclave in Ohio. He discovered they were creating beautiful, solid hardwood furniture meant to last a lifetime. “And our customers loved it. It was entirely market driven.” And while he didn’t necessarily set out to improve the environmental footprint of his products, it was one of the “unintended consequences” of getting back to natural products.
“We’re dedicated to providing furniture that is good for your health, home and the environment,” assures Blandy. “All of our furniture—except for our Outdoor line, which is made from recycled milk jugs—is handcrafted using natural hardwoods. Our craftsmen do not work with inferior substrates like particle board or flimsy faux wood veneers.”
Blandy affirms that the store’s Amish furniture designers work mostly with cherry, maple, oak and walnut. “Each board is selected by hand, and inspected for quality, strength, straightness, grain and color,” he explains. “Sometimes our artisans harvest lumber from the woods on their own property, a sustainable approach that adds another dimension to the story of your furniture.”
There’s also the waste saved from disposable furniture. “We were never in the business of throwaway products,” Blandy says. “This furniture is meant to last a lifetime. Very rarely are you going to replace a piece of Amish furniture.”
The furnishings benefit consumers’ internal environments as well as the external habitat. Many of Amish Home Furnishings furniture makers continue to use traditional oil and wax based finishes, but even those that use more modern finishes ensure that they are non-toxic, formaldehyde-free and eco-friendly with little or no Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs). “As concern over indoor air quality continues to grow, many of our furniture makers are moving toward water-based finishes. Conventional petroleum-based solvents contain VOCs which are harmful to the atmosphere,” says Blandy.
Of course, all these environmental benefits would be moot if the furniture itself wasn’t appealing and functional. Although Blandy’s initial goal was simply to upgrade his line to the quality and standards it was historically known for, the store now offers “some of the most beautiful hardwood available on the face of the planet” in almost every American-made wood and an extensive variety of finishes. And since each piece is built to order, the store offers shoppers a degree of flexibility and customization far beyond what traditional stores do.
What’s more, those who love the look and feel of quality wood furniture won’t sacrifice modern conveniences. “This is traditional looking-furniture that incorporates high-tech, 21st-century elements,” Blandy says. “We’re very aware of technology and add features and benefits you don’t find even in import furniture” — things like cord management for wires and USB ports and outlets in unexpected spots like nightstands.
“People feel good about us, so we’re doing the right things,” Blandy says. “The main goal is we want people to be happy with what they’ve got.”
Amish Home Furnishings is located at 1220 Ridgewood Ave., Holly Hill. For more information, call 386-258-3338 or visit AmishHomeFurnishings.com.