living room

When we start waking up to temperatures in the 40s and the leaves are turning all kinds of beautiful colors outside, our attention starts diverting a bit away from all those yard and garden chores still to be wrapped up. It’s time to get cozy and turn our creative minds towards the inside of our homes.

I love shopping for new furniture… especially upholstered pieces. There’s not a nubby cream fabric or neat nailhead trim I don’t admire. In my experience, the most productive and fun way to shop for furniture is when there’s either just one decision maker or a couple made up of one person with that particular eye for style and the other partner who’s fairly passive and trusting of the spouse’s taste. And, don’t be in a rush. Enjoy the process.

You’ve probably heard of some of the difficulties people are running into right now while looking at their next comfy sofa. Like just about every industry on the planet, the pandemic and multiple world events have led to shortages and long waiting periods for special order pieces. The overall picture of the problem is multi-pronged yet all related. First, the pandemic. Think vast amounts of times when factories of every type were shuttered for weeks and months. In a domino effect, this can mean virtually every ingredient of that gorgeous new sectional was or is unavailable for a stretch of time. So, if the springs aren’t in yet at the plant, you’ve got a bunch of hardwood frames just waiting around. Same with that fabric. The second wave of the COVID crisis has hit some countries extremely hard that are some of our primary furniture producers. Malaysia and Vietnam in particular, according to Tracy Croteau, co-owner of Syd’s Carpet & Snooze Room in Keene.

Back in March a huge freighter got stuck crossways in the Suez Canal, causing days of other ships backing up in an unbelievable snarl. Currently, there’s dozens and dozens of ships waiting to dock at port to unload on the west coast of the US. The port of Los Angeles is a major hub for import and export trade. What’s the story with that? The problem really circles back to the pandemic and the way the makeup of our workforce is changing. There are simply not enough truck drivers to expediently haul all that freight away from port. Every one of these problems compounds the others and it will be interesting over the next few years to see how the world of supply and demand adjusts. Like an air traffic controller, a logistics engineer is one position I wouldn’t relish right now.

Back to furniture, though, I found while surveying several of our local retailers that there’s still plenty of furniture to be found. Tracy Croteau said they’re well stocked at Syd’s and, yes, they will sell off the floor. This is a point to emphasize if you’re thinking about traveling to some big box or chain furniture stores. The big corporate stores typically have pre-set layouts and systems for buying items when you go in. They may not be able to release that sofa that’s on the floor and will need to check to see if the same one is available in a warehouse somewhere or if it needs to be special ordered. Special order upholstered pieces are the toughest category right now with delivery sometimes pushed out to 12 months or even longer. Locally owned stores don’t usually have that rule about not selling off the floor.

Patricia Hinz, one of the managers at Andy’s of Keene (in the old Plotkin’s location on Park Avenue in Keene) told me that yes, while special orders might have a 25-30 week wait time, they’ve got an even bigger store in Greenfield, MA as well as a warehouse which offers them a lot of flexibility and choice for customers. One of the owners actually drives a truck down to Pennsylvania every few weeks and stocks up… particularly on case goods. I’d heard the term before and she explained to me it refers to non-upholstered pieces like bedroom and dining room sets, desks, cabinets etc. Another industry term she used, quick ship, is the ability for hers and other local stores to order certain frames and fabrics from their vendors that they constantly keep stocked in their warehouses. That’s good to know!

Winchendon Furniture co-owner Cherie Ladeau was philosophical about the current retail environment during these times of pandemic and political upheaval. From manufacturing to the shipping of goods, it has made her and most folks much more aware of how globally interconnected we really are. Like the other stores in the area, she will sell right off the floor of her downtown Keene shop (the former Your Kitchen store with all it’s terrific natural light pouring in those store-front windows.) They have an even larger store in Winchendon, MA to draw from as well.

I didn’t get a chance to catch up with store manager, Jacquelyn, at Frazier & Son Furniture over on Old Homestead Highway in Swanzey but a recent trip in with a friend shopping for a club chair proved they were just as well stocked as usual in their expansive store with great lighting and soaring ceilings. So, get yourself in the mood… allow yourself some time and bring along a partner who you just love to shop with. The Monadnock region has a wealth of furniture and home décor stores to choose from. Make a nice day of it by visiting a couple then take a break for lunch at one of our local restaurants that would really appreciate your business. Then head back out and hit a couple more. You’re sure to find something you absolutely love and can’t wait to get comfy in.