This junk eventually needs to be picked up at its point of origin, which lately have been defunct furniture factories.
Once upon a time (right after WWII, to be exact), more than 60% of all the furniture made in the USA was made in North Carolina. Names like Baker, Broyhill, Drexel-Heritage, Henredon, Hickory-White, Lexington, Marsh Cabinets, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Thomasville, and U.S. Furniture Industries are all NC-based.
Or perhaps we should say "were." Because many of these venerable old firms are no longer NC companies...and many of them are gone. Let's use Lexington as an example.
Lexington, NC is synonymous with many things: Barbeque, NASCAR, Bob Timberlake, and furniture.
It's the kind of small town that you would see in a black-and-white television show (for those of you old enough to remember black-and-white television) where the folks know their neighbors, the men sit in the coffee shop talking sports, and the women bake pies for the church supper. Back in the day, many of the men worked for Lexington Furniture Industries.
It was a good living--enough to provide a cozy home and put a decent meal on the table while still leaving a $10 bill to put into the church collection plate each Sunday. But that was then, and this is now.
In the early 2000s (or 'the zeroes, ' as I like to call them), Lexington began to shift its manufacturing to off-shore facilities. They closed three plants after being acquired by Sun Capital Partners, a holding company out of Boca Raton.
(Now...I have nothing against Boca, but what the heck do they know about American-made furniture? It's a bunch of old people, sitting around playing canasta.)
Anyway, Bob Timberlake partnered with Lexington Furniture to create The World of Bob Timberlake, the most successful line of furniture in history. But Mr. Timberlake wasn't happy to see his line leave the capable hands of craftsmen and women in Lexington to be made overseas. He wanted his furniture to be American-made. He and Lexington parted ways, and his furniture continued to be made in Lexington, by Linwood Furniture.
Unfortunately, Linwood was already struggling when it began building components of the Timberlake collection, and they couldn't keep up with the demand alone...Timberlake had to license Century Furniture, also made in NC, to pick up the slack. And Linwood, despite a $2M infusion of capital, closed its doors.
It's eerie to walk into a manufacturing facility that is still set up for the working day. I am used to the hustle and bustle and hum and noise of a plant--DL works next to his--and to see a plant abandoned with things still on the line was a real disconnect for me.
The folks running the auction told us that one day, halfway through a shift, the manager came out onto the floor and told everyone to shut down and go home.
Some personal effects were left behind.
Workstations were abandoned, still with orders and schedules attached.
I own one of these hutches--it's beautifully made and will last much longer than I do! I bought it at a local retailer about five years ago, hoping to add a server when I was ready for one. It won't be happening, now.
Here's where I may offend some people:
Please understand that every choice you make as a consumer has an impact; an impact on the environment and on the economy. I am not here to tell you how to spend your money, but I would ask that you do some research. How will your purchases impact others?
You may not think it's a problem to go to Wal-Mart and spend $100 on whatever, but please understand that the bulk of that money is going to line the pockets of the Walton family, who has, combined, .14% of all US wealth. Yet, the bulk of their employees do not receive health or retirement benefits.
Then again, you can save a buck.
You may not think that all the cute holiday decorations you purchase at Target (because they're so darn CUTE!) have any kind of impact on your local economy, but because they're made in Asia, mostly, they are problematic for both the US economy AND the environment, because most Asian countries don't have the same type of environmental protection at factories that North American countries do. And, if we made them here, they would be too costly for us to be an impulse buy, because we want our folks to make a living wage...
And while I LOVE IKEA as much as the next person...I must admit that I find the fact that (a) a good portion of their items are made in China, and (b) their items have a distinct "disposability" to them--meaning you don't expect the items to last more than a few years--a bit disconcerting. Give me grandma's tea cart from 1947 and I will make that sucker into a great side table, 2013-style. Or, better yet--embrace the past and give the furniture of your childhood a great home in your space.
I may make fun of my "old lady" living room, but I know where nearly every piece came from, and where it was made. I am proud to say that the bulk of it is stamped "MADE IN AMERICA," if it's young enough to have a stamp. Many of my pieces are too old--my mother's or grandmother's pieces that I have adopted. While my house may not look like a photograph from a Pottery Barn catalog (and Pottery Barn does offer a few American-made products), it is conscientiously reflective of who and what I am...
...made in America.