Texas Furniture Makers Thriving, Despite Big Box Store Imports

Most consumers in Austin are familiar with the ‘Go Local’ movement. All over the state, consumers are urged to buy products that are made in Texas. The economic benefits of buying local are real and often measurable.

In Texas, the furniture manufacturing industry employs over 22,000 people, and the greatest concentration of these workers is found in the central region of the state. Although exports make up a large portion of revenue for the industry ($359 million in 2012), support for local made furniture makers is alive and well.

“A lot of customers are surprised to see ‘Made in Texas’ on the furniture, especially since it is something no big-box retailer offers,” said Harriet Greenlee, owner of Furniture in the Raw, one of the few retailers that carries Texas made furniture.

“Realistically, up to 35% of the price of an item is freight. If we can keep our business in Texas, freight is cheap, therefore making it a tremendous value for our customer.”

“Obviously, if our neighbors are working, we are working.”

From a cultural standpoint, Greenlee says by using native wood species (oak is a Texan favorite), and a local labor force, Texas furniture makers are help keeping the state’s culture visible and economically viable.

Furniture in the Raw solid wood Trend Manor furniture Austin and San Antonio

Trend Manor Furniture

Local furniture maker Scott Stevenson, owner of S S Enterprises in Gatesville, says he was inspired to take a durable approach to furniture construction.

“When I was a kid, my parents bought me a new bedroom set and after a year it was falling apart, which they chewed me out for. Now, I realize that they bought a poorly designed set that was destined to fall apart and I wanted to prevent other kids and parents from the same experience,” said Stevenson.

One S S Enterprises’ online reviewer reports that their solid wood Texas furniture still looks like new after 10 years, three kids, and four moves. Stevenson says that’s because he uses durable Red Oak And Ponderosa Pine sourced from the U.S.

From ranch houses to condo dwellers, many Austinites are turning away from the big-box retailers and opting for Texas furniture for their interiors. Austin REMAX realtor Jude Galligan says that many buyers, especially in condos, want their new home designed and furnished before moving in. They’re moving away from the big-box offerings and opting for more stylized locally made options.

“They’re putting more value on quality and craftsmanship – a custom piece of furniture is like artwork, and can anchor an entire room. If a condominium is decorated with cheap, box store furniture, it’s immediately evident and it’s a negative,” said Galligan.

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Greenlee says that the hottest item they’re selling at Furniture in the Raw is the traditional Murphy Bed, something that is ideal when space is tight. They are the only retailer in San Antonio or Austin that sells them with solid wood construction.

“As folks downsize, these are the perfect compliment to a small room or an office that needs to double as a guest room,” said Greenlee.

Buyers are also becoming a bit more discerning once they spot a piece on the showroom floor. Dove tail drawers are probably the most well-known technique among all wood furniture buyers. Identifying how well the drawer is made tells you a lot about how well the piece is made.

Buyers also don’t have to settle for a single color offered by the manufacturer. Furniture in the Raw offers customers custom finishes from an extensive palette of colors and stains.

“When people are buying a locally made, solid wood Texas furniture, it is usually something they know they want to keep. A custom finish makes it unique and they can match it to their existing decor,” said Greenlee.

Supporting local artists like custom furniture-makers is not only a way to ensure high-quality craftsmanship in your home, but it’s a way to continue driving the economy in the state.

Greenlee explains, “Obviously, if our neighbors are working, we are working.”