By Robert Cook
After starting out in the food industry and serving over two million satisfied customers at Filling Station Three in Monmouth, Chuck Fry decided to move into a less time consuming business.
He chose handmade furniture and now supplies the surrounding counties with traditional, hardwood furniture, much of it traditional Amish hardwood. In the same building as his once famous restaurant, Fry has worked with Monmouth
College for the last eight years. Seven of the buildings in Monmouth College are furnished with handmade, Amish craftsmanship, including Founders Village, North Hall, Peterson Hall, Cleland Hall, Winbigler, the fraternity complex, and the new Greek house on Broadway. Iowa Weslyan College is now following in Monmouth's footsteps and filling its halls with Mr. Fry's products.
Traditional Amish Hardwoods is an international distributor of its unique products. "We do most of our business outside of Monmouth", Fry said, and explained how necessary it was to expand his business beyond the local community. Mail order is Fry's most profitable enterprise.
Small, homebound shops in Pennsylvania are Fry's largest producer of handmade furniture. Some are Amish, while others are merely dedicated to the craftsmanship. Fry is always honest about what furniture is of Amish make and what is not. The pieces can be custom or premade
to fit the customer's needs. Oak, quarter-sawed oak, cherry, and maple are the most common hardwoods used. When furniture is in need of repair, Fry often contracts the work to the original builders.
Questioning the product is every buyer's right, but Fry has no worries about his products. "It's solid, quality wood" he said, "our reputation speaks for itself." Fry gladly offers anybody to lift a chair and feel the solid construction of the furniture, some of which is even signed by the
artist. Fry warns against cheap, wood veneer that is glued on top of particle board to make a piece of furniture that merely looks like hardwood.
Fry does not bother with sales and coupons. He said he believes his product is worth the same price all year round and he does not need marketing ploys to sell it. So far, his honest, simple business has served him well.