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Wisconsin Mennonite family makes, sells furniture

  • Article by: KELLY MEYERHOFER
  • Associated Press
  • August 18, 2014 - 12:05 AM

TWO RIVERS, Wis. — Furniture is a lot like family values for Paul Martin.

"Well-made furniture is enduring and can be passed down to future generations," he explained.

Martin wants the same for the values he has instilled in his nine children.

It was this philosophy that laid the foundation for Martin's furniture business, appropriately named Heritage House.

The Martins, a Mennonite family, moved from Marathon County to Two Rivers in June 2013 and opened their store in December. While they may be new to the area, they come with 25 years of experience in the business of handcrafted furniture, the (Manitowoc) HTR Media (http://htrne.ws/1B8Y76z ) reported.

Martin grew up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania and became interested in carpentry after taking woodworking classes in school.

After spending two years building furniture for someone else's business, he decided to open his own.

"I wanted to develop something my entire family could work on," he said.

And indeed, his company is a family affair.

All four of his sons grew up in the woodshop. Two of them, Wilfred and Victor, still work for their father in the production facility located in Athens, a small town about a half-hour west of Wausau. His wife Margaret and daughter Bethany help with sales, while his youngest daughters, Emily and Dorinda, do the dusting and window washing.

When the Martins lived in Athens, Paul ran Martin Woodcraft, the production facility, and sold all of the furniture to a company that sought local suppliers.

The move to this side of the state prompted him to open a showroom, which has allowed him the opportunity to learn the retail side of business.

"I'm working on advertising," Martin said. "But I'm glad our shop is on a busy highway."

Heritage House is located just on the edge of Mishicot.

Though the shop has been open for less than a year, Martin said business is good, despite the sluggish economy.

A lot of furniture companies have moved overseas, and with this relocation comes a decrease in craftsmanship, Martin said.

"But there are still people looking for quality," he pointed out.

Martin was pleasantly surprised to discover a stronger interest for well-built furniture in this area than in central Wisconsin.

His showroom includes bedroom sets, office furniture, china hutches, dining room sets and benches.

While all pieces are for sale, most customers take a look around and then custom order their furniture. Martin said people should expect eight weeks from the time they place their order for the furniture to arrive.

Everything sold at Heritage House is handmade, though not all of it by the Martins. The tables and chairs are from other companies that Martin sells to help them develop their own business.

Seven other Mennonite families moved to the area with the Martins after the church and school in Athens grew too large.

Several of these families opened their own businesses.

"We chose this area because we saw business opportunities," Martin said.

One sells sheds, another entrepreneur makes lawn furniture, and someone else is looking to open a whole foods and baked goods store on Highway 42.

And, as Mennonites shy away from mass-produced items, all of their stores only offer handmade items.

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by HTR Media

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