It's no secret that the housing market is one of the hardest hit by the economic downturn. So you would think that the American furniture industry would simply follow the housing industry into the tank, and although in some cases it has, it doesn't have to be that way if we know where to shop and which furniture brands to buy.
Sadly, some American businesses that go out of their way to carry only American-made products have not survived the Great Recession. Ronald Menet, owner of 55-year-old Menet Furniture in St. Lawrence, Pennsylvania, closed his store early this month, saying "Furniture's the last thing you think of in an economy like this."
Menet's father started his small business with $4,000.00 and a patriotic desire to do right by his country with a philosophy built on the tradition of selling American-made furniture. But after fighting imports for over a decade, he now believes that philosophy ultimately led to the demise of the business. He said "I was too proud selling American product. I regret that."
The good news is that what happens in St. Lawrence doesn't always play out the same way in St. Louis or St. Petersburg, and that patriotic consumers have the power to keep patriotic businesses up and running by using the money we're already spending in the right way. In Mims, Florida, there is a store called Home Furniture that has been in business for over 35 years and carries only American-made furniture. I've personally bought a lot of furniture from Home Furniture because I know it's guaranteed made in U.S.A., including a dinette set, a curio cabinet, a coffee table, and a Jamison mattress (the same mattress used in many Marriott Hotels).
But what do you do if you live in an area that doesn't have a small business dedicated selling only to American-made furniture? Fortunately, the majority of furniture sold in national chains Bassett and La-Z-Boy are made in U.S.A. I should know. My formal living room has a sofa and loveseat made by Bassett and the less-formal family room has a sofa and loveseat made by La-Z-Boy. If you want to check them out, check out my new "Buy American Home Inspection" video on YouTube. You'll also see just how possible it is to buy American-made products from American-owned companies in many areas you might not think were even possible.
If you don't care for Bassett or La-Z-Boy or don't live in Central Florida to browse through the showroom at Home Furniture (www.homefurniturefl.com), you can still use Home Furniture's website to find many companies that make their furniture in the U.S.A. like Temple Furniture (www.templefurniture.com) and Parker Southern (www.parkersouthern.com). Just go to www.homefurniturefl.com and browse their manufacturers online by the room. That way, if you see furniture made by one of these companies in whatever furniture store you happen to be in, there's a good chance it will be made in America.
Just because a product is made in U.S.A., however, doesn't mean we're avoiding sending our American consumer dollars to China. An April 8, 2009, Wall Street Journal article detailed how one furniture company - Craftmaster, Inc. - was weathering the economic downturn. Dongguan, China-based Samson Holding Ltd. owns the American-sounding Craftmaster brand, and their Taylorsville, NC plant basically assembles furniture after importing large amounts of upholstery fabric, wooden frames and other furniture parts from China.
Chinese companies have found ways other than making cheap toys and other products with which to flood the American market. They are now buying abandoned American factories from companies that could not survive the economic downturn from one reason or another. This was the strategy for Chinese-owned Craftmaster, which knew most U.S. mills that made fabric for upholstered furniture had closed their doors. After all, La-Z-Boy had laid off 25 percent of their workforce, although still hanging onto American factories for production, and earnings for Ethan Allen fell 73 percent the year earlier.
American consumers can still vote with their dollars to fortify American companies producing in America if they are armed with the right information. In addition to the furniture makers listed in this article, you'll find links to other American furniture makers on the howtobuyamerican.com links page like Bentwood Furniture, Oak Tree Furniture, LTS Laser personalized furniture, and American Leather.
As with any strategy where we need to make informed decisions, awareness is the key. Once we're aware of what the American choices are, all that's left is to let our money do the talking - and if we've been vocal about the importance of buying American to our national prosperity - to put our money where our mouth is.
Roger Simmermaker is the author of How Americans Can Buy American: The Power of Consumer Patriotism. He also writes "Buy American Mention of the Week" articles for his website www.howtobuyamerican.com and is a member of the Machinists Union and National Writers Union. Roger has been a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, has been quoted in the USA Today, Wall Street Journal and US News & World Report among many other publications, and is now a weekly contributor to WorldNetDaily.