Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Kent-Coffey Furniture and Baby Boomers

I need to apply for government grant money. I could do a study on what kinds of furniture our parents were buying in the 40's and 50's. Why not? I hear of people getting money to figure out why there are so many alligators in storm drains or to study life habits of Alaskan cod.

I have a sure-fire way to get the information. It comes in every day from my readers. As the Baby Boomers age they are inheriting their parent's furniture and want to know how much it is worth so they can decide whether to treasure it, sell it or toss it out.

Sorry, I don't know what it's worth because I live in the world of new furniture. But I do know what was hot each year because everyone is asking about the same company.

A couple years ago all my email started, "Hi. We just inherited a Jasper Cabinet secretary..." That went on for several years. I guess as World War II started the entire country ran out and bought a Jasper Cabinet secretary so they could write to the boys overseas.

Inquiries stopped for a couple years then picked up again, slowly at first, but as the weather warms and the attics get cleaned out it is picking up. And they are all asking about the same thing. Considering I get mail from all over the country, it is really weird.

After the war, or toward the end, Kent-Coffey must have been the brand to have. Because most mail I get now starts out, "Hi. We just inherited a Kent-Coffey end table..."

From this I know: 1) another generation of Baby Boomers is dealing with aging parents and 2) a lot of people who bought furniture that year bought Kent-Coffey. Hundreds of brands of furniture, and a significant number of the inquiries are about Kent-Coffey. Go figure.

Based in Lenoir, NC Kent-Coffey produced promotionally priced, but decent quality furniture through the 60's until it was sold to the Singer Furniture Company, a subsidiary of the Singer sewing machine fame. Singer should have stuck with sewing machines because around 1997 the furniture division went bankrupt. In 2001, Kent-Coffey was named as co-defendant in a lawsuit brought by a former Singer employee suing over asbestos related illness. After that the trail goes cold. I would love to hear from former Kent-Coffey employees who can fill in any of the blanks.

Harold Coffey was a great influence on the North Carolina furniture industry. Although competitors, he had a strong friendship with other leaders in the industry such as James Broyhill and John Bernhardt. As a tribute to his legacy his former home in Lenoir has been preserved as a bed and breakfast named Sharon Elizabeths. I called the owners of the B&B who, it turns out, have been researching the company's history and would love to hear from any readers or former employees who have first-hand knowledge of Kent-Coffey's past.


Anonymous said...

Kent coffey is amazingly well made, well designed beautiful furniture. So why the attitude?

CV. Anindo Furniture Indonesia said...

We have some collections of white painted french furniture and sleigh bed, sleigh bedside cabinet, sleigh wardrobe, sleigh dressing tables made of solid mahogany plantation wood from Indonesia.
Thank you.
Paul Gang.

H. Madjeski said...

I 'M IN THE SAME BOAT ,I AM INHERITING A KENT COFFEY Bedroom set.In one of the two dressers, the drawer is labeled Kent Coffey,The Auburn.The set comes complete with Two beds ,two dressers,a bed side table and a large wall mirror.I'm looking to sell also.

Jeff said...

branding branding. A lot of furniture brand today actually is just a "lable". They import the furniture and put their own branding on. This is why i really like this US made furniture

Shaun said...

I just found a Kent Coffey, The Auburn, dresser with mirror. It is a well made, Retro/Atomic Age piece. My regards to your study.

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Anonymous said...

We purchased a house next to ours (an 1855 4 unit house) 4 years ago. There was a lot of things left in the house and one of the items is a Kent Coffey Perspecta night stand. I cleaned it up and there are a few nics in the wood, but the quality of the piece and the wood is amazing. My husband is a carpenter and wood worker and I told him I loved the piece and wanted to keep it. I had no idea what I had until I looked it up on the internet. The piece is selling on some sights for around $300, and it was free! Would love to know more about this collection if anyone has info.

Anonymous said...

my mother bought me the Kent Coffey, bedroom set in St Louis, I have the original tags north Carolina, I have the canopy bed, nightstand desk, double dresser, mirror and highboy, I hope to have someone redo, its in the second bedroom,as I am moving to smaller quarters to retire, its absolutely beautiful furniture, they don't make furniture like this anymore...

Unknown said...

Im 55 years old and have had this furniture in my life as far back as i can remember as a child. born in 1961 i dont know when or where my parents bought it. it is still in use to this day surviving many many moves because we have always lived in apartments. very strong and sturdy after all these years !!