Monday, March 8, 2010

Amish Entrepreneur Constructs Fine Furniture

by Dylan Scott

Abie Trowler sits at his desk and surveys the work of his hands, laid before him. Rocking chairs. Bed frames. A cabinet with three mirrors and six drawers. All carved from white pine or cedar. Stacks of logs fill an airy warehouse behind the showroom.

This is Abie’s place, Hidden View Rustic Log Furniture, planted next to his parents’ Hidden View Bakery on a winding gravel road off State Route 325 near Vinton. Follow the little white signs or you will get lost.

He is lead craftsman, manager and CEO. Hands folded together, his beard draws to a little finer point when he laughs – and he often does describing his days drawing up new designs for his new business.

Abie, who is 28, and his family of seven moved down from the Pennsylvania-New York border a few years ago for the “warmer weather,” he says with a grin. His parents and seven sisters, all one big Amish family, came along.

His father, Sam, had heard talk among their people that log furniture was profitable enterprise. As Abie grew up, it seemed like a natural means for him to provide for his family. “As far as working for a living, there is nothing better,” he says. “It’s amazing to see what you draw become something in real life.”

So, in December 2008, Abie opened Hidden View. Business was slow at first, but he expected that, and the patience has been rewarded. Out of at least 30 pieces sitting in his showroom, only five are actually for sale. The rest were ordered. He has sold furniture to wholesale companies in West Virginia and Kentucky, but Abie is now finding most of his patrons in Gallia County.

They could leave with a whole new house. Abie can construct anything and everything, with his nimble hands and some help from three of his sisters.

The timber travels down from northern Michigan or even Canada, if possible. The further north the better, Abie says. Wood grown in colder climates matures at a slower pace, which tightens the grains and makes the furniture sturdier.

Then, he saws, sands and trims the logs down to the posts and planks he needs for anything from a queen-sized bed to a night stand to a porch swing. The orders depend on the season, Abie says. Customers can check out the showroom for ideas or Abie takes requests. If you’re interested in working some designs into your bed’s headstand, he sends those pieces up to “an English person” – that’s you or I – in Chillicothe with the equipment and skills for that. His parents also work a weaving machine to turn loose yarn into area rugs.

It is a family venture, and Abie clearly loves his work. He shows off the warehouse and workroom like a proud father, but takes little credit for his own talents. I guess he knows actions speak louder than words.


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Erik Wesner said...

Nice article! I enjoyed reading how this business teams with non-Amish. Not an uncommon situation. And, I did not know that wood matures slower at more northerly climes. Makes sense.