Nothing makes you appreciate furniture as much as backpacking. While backpacking, a lowly rock, stump or log suffices for a chair. These chair wannabees seldom are stable, padded or particularly attractive. Thankfully, I recently discovered an American firm making outdoor patio furniture that possesses all the desireable characteristics that rocks, stumps and logs lack.
I was wandering through my favorite local store, City People’s Mercantile and Garden Store, and ran into the proprietor Judith Gille. As is usual with me, the subject turned to Made in America within about 23 seconds. Judith stocks tons of Made in America products at City Peoples: Weber, Dramm, Estwing, and Channellock to name but a few. Judith and I were chatting and she asked me if I had heard about Woodard, a great company making outdoor furniture on our shores. I hadn’t. Judith said that if a person wanted to buy wrought iron outdoor furniture, they should check out Woodard. So, I proceeded to do just that.
Woodard furniture was founded, not surprisingly, by a Woodard. Lyman Woodard to be precise. Mr. Woodard arrived in Owosso, Michigan in 1866 and bought the White Planning Mills and Furniture Factory. In addition to making furniture, Mr. Woodard also constructed caskets. The Owosso Casket factory supplied the caskets for two Presidents: Benjamin Harrison and William McKinley.
In the 1930s, Russell, Lyman and Joseph Woodard began hand-crafting wrought iron furniture. Woodard now makes beautiful outdoor furniture from wrought iron, cast and tubular. Woodard furniture is used at the White House according to an account of the company. The Woodard factory is a 300,000 square-foot giant in Owosso; longtime employee Louis Zelenka now runs the plant. The plethora of styles that Woodard produces is amazing: 26 different styles of wrought iron furniture and 38 styles of aluminum furniture! Three styles that show the range of Woodard’s catalog are the Wyatt Mesh, the Salona and the Valencia.
If you live in Seattle and are in the market for wrought iron outdoor furniture, stop by City People’s and pick up some Woodard. City People’s stocks the entire Woodard Line. Three Woodard styles to consider picking up while you are shopping at City People’s are the Constantine, the Genoa and the Bradford.
City People’s also stocks lots of Woodard Dining tables up to the extended family sized 42″ x 72″ dining table.
In the article on Woodard, the current chief of Woodard sums up why the firm is special to him. “My father worked here, my daughter works here… we have a lot of multi-generational families. It (Woodard) supports a lot of families and livelihoods here in Owosso.” Wow. That statement kinda sums up why I am writing my book and this blog. Buying furniture from Woodard allows you and I to support members of our extended American family who happen to live in Owosso, Michigan. Buying brooms and mops from Libman allows you and I to support members of our extended American family who happen to live in Arcola, Illinois. And buying bags from Tom Bihn allows you and I to support members of our extended American family who happen to live in my hometown, Seattle, Washington. By buying American, we can create work for people in this country who desperately want a job. And that is a pretty good bargain if you ask me!