Duane, You mentioned that you no longer sell the Flexsteel line. Other then the China made Lattitiude group, how is the quality of their "Made in USA" upholstered chairs and sofa's? Do you consider them a good product?
I'm a small store and can afford to be picky about what I carry - and I have to have confidence in the line or else I can't be enthusiastic about selling it. One tends to develop a critical eye after being in the business for awhile and I just didn't like what I was seeing on the Flexsteel product - even the USA made items. Its all cost/value and I just didn't see that Flexsteel was giving my customer's their money's worth vs other items they could purchase that I thought were built to a higher standard.
This is not to say that Flexsteel is not durable, and long lasting - because it is. But a sloppy sewing job will last just as long as one done expertly with straight seams - either way the thread holds. A 3/4" gap on a motion back will perform equal to one that has a 1/4" gap, and so on. You don't have to be concerned about the pieces holding up, I just didn't like what I was seeing in workmanship and components relative to the price charged.
For example, Flexsteel builds the bulk of their product out of furniture grade plywood rather than 5/4" hardwood (the industry standard for well-made furniture). They go to great lengths to tell the story that the plywood has the same strength and screw-hold capability of the 5/4" hardwood, and it does. But what they don't tell you is that plywood frames flex like mad. Pickup a corner of a plywood frame sofa and you can get it four inches off the floor before the other corner comes up. On a 5/4" frame it all comes up together - the very definition of rigid. Frames need to be rigid to work the best.
Their torsion 'blue spring' system is the best of its kind, but its still a torsion spring and not 8-way hand-tied. It will never break or wear out, but it will never be as comfortable to sit upon as the 8-way.
I remember the moment I decided to drop the line. I was on out delivery truck with one my helpers and we got to a customers house who had ordered a Flexsteel reclining sectional. As we pulled the pieces out, I was almost embarrassed to deliver it as the stitching work was so sloppy on the piece, the cushions not well-formed, and clearance tolerances noticeably excessive. We put it in its basement rec room on a poured concrete floor and it racked so badly from the plywood frame construction twisting that we couldn't get the sectional to line up on the backs. I had to run to the hardware store and buy door shims to put under the legs to get it all evened out. My customer was thrilled to get it, however I decided that I didn't want tobe a representative for a line like this - that one has to make excuses for.
My mantra is pretty much this: "If I wouldn't buy it for my home, why should I expect my customer to own it?" I've been told by many a supplier I'm too picky and the name of the game is to move product and churn cash - but I've never gone down that path. I like my customers to come back time and time again...and tell me they got their money's worth.
All Questions should be asked in the forum
Duane, Thank you very much for taking the time to explain your observations with their products. You have a great philosophy that seems to be lacking these days with most businesses, who's only concern is the almighty dollar.
I am very familiar with hardwood and didnt realize they are using plywood as opposed to solid hardwood. Your absolutely correct on the flexing factor. Great points to consider for us consumers. Your trained eye see's things most of us would miss at a glance.
Are you familiar at all with Smith Brothers of Berne Indiana? I think they are an Amish owned and run company. We want to purchase an upholstered sofa but of course would like to sit on them to see how they feel and fit.
You're most welcome, Paul. The whole essence of a forum such as this is to exchange information and learn about various pieces, so I'm glad to help when I can.
For Smith Bros, I know there are others here that own the product, I don't have any working experience with it (though when I read its 'made by the Amish' by warning alert antennas deploy automatically).
All Questions should be asked in the forum
I have Smith Brothers furniture. Very strong warranty, hardwood frames, their own custom coil spring design and they do take care of issues if you have any of course it's the dealer who makes the call to get things corrected or not so make sure you pick a good dealer whatever you buy.
When I started looking for furniture I knew I wanted to upgrade from my low-mid level furniture to something that would be built better and hopefully last quite awhile. I talked to furniture repair people and re-upholstery shops asking them what I should look for in quality furniture and where can I get it. They recommended me to two local stores which cater to the mid-high end upholstery/leather furniture. A third store that carried BY and other brands had closed a few years ago. I went to the two stores and found the one store deals in multiple brands with H&M being their core brand and the other mainly focusing on SB. The H&M dealer pricing was quite a ways out of my budget and I did not know about Duane and his pricing at the time so I focused on the store selling SB for my furniture needs which was at the top of my budget. Before buying anything I wanted to know more about the furniture and company and since I never heard of SB before. I found at the time there was little on the internet I went digging for information on SB the company and their products. Hopefully I can help you like some others helped me in the past.
What I can remember as to the Amish connection I think SB is too modern to be Amish made/designed. I think it's more a connection to the area which has both Amish and Mennonite ties - Check this page for more information http://www.smithbrothersfurniture.com/about/berne/ From their history page "It uses a balance of state-of-the-art equipment and traditional techniques" http://www.smithbrothersfurniture.com/about/history/ . I found a link saying "Made in the Swiss Amish tradition" but I think that is more marketing than how they build it today. If you go this page and read the articles http://www.smithbrothersfurniture.com/about/news/ I doubt Amish would be running digital counters, cad, and other modern machines
As to the quality I would never suggest SB is on the level of HM but I do think they fit above the Thomasville's, Flexsteels and other lines. Good luck and feel free to ask questions.
bought my 2 flexsteel chairs in August 2010, took ownership of them in October 2010.
Last week one of the recline assemblies seized and the other was getting close. Had the furniture repair guy come out and he agreed that ever since they moved their operations to China, the quality has gone WAY down and that he repairs these chairs often. My brother in law has 2 chairs from circa-2005, and they are tough as nails. Also, they don't squeak when you sit in them, etc. they have never had problems with them.
The repair guy knew exactly what was wrong before he showed up. We flipped the chair over and of course the mechanism has dug into the wood (that explains the wood falling from underneath our chairs).
Now I don't mind stuff going over to China (*I believe* that our nation has benefited from the fact that we don't make cell phones, linen, etc anymore). But when the quality drops off that much, it is rather problematic.
I hope the chairs are better than when they were delivered after the repairs.
I have to say I tend to respectively disagree with on the "If I wouldn't buy it for my home, why should I expect my customer to own it?". I have been in the furniture business for years, and I have learned that it is amazing what some people want to buy. Things that are low quality, cheap, and down right ugly were flying off the shelf. I also try to only buy quality furniture, that is solid wood construction, and avoid particle board whenever possible. But the best is not always what the people want.
Last edited by drcollie; 10-08-2011 at 02:09 AM.