Green Acres Furniture: 23 years of high-quality furniture
You never know what someone’s vision is when they start a business, so it’s difficult to say what Paul Swartzentruber and his wife, Naomi, had in mind when they began building and selling furniture in 1988. But 23 years later, the business they named, “Green Acres Furniture” has grown into one of the largest hardwood furniture manufacturer and retailing businesses in Ohio’s Amish Country.
With more than 40,000 square feet of manufacturing and showroom space all in one location just north of Mount Eaton, in southeastern Wayne County, Green Acres Furniture has grown from a small husband-and-wife operation into a business that now involves all four of Paul and Naomi Swartzentruber’s children and approximately 20 additional employees.
Change is constant, and the local hardwood furniture industry certainly has seen its share of changes in the last 20 years. One major change was when a number of Amish furniture builders began selling only to wholesale accounts. But Green Acres Furniture long ago made the decision to continue designing and building its furniture and selling it directly to consumers, all in the same location. Along the way, Green Acres Furniture added what is now a complete line of upholstered furniture, too.
Probably most significant is that Green Acres Furniture also has continued to build furniture with its “Forest to Furniture” method, choosing its own timber while still in the woods, and following it from the mill, to the dry kiln, to the workshop, where they build all the components that go into their handcrafted hardwood furniture. Those decisions have proven wise, and the choice to retain their original business model puts Green Acres in an exclusive niche today.
But those weren’t the only choices the Swartzentrubers have faced. Market forces also required the family’s attention. “We started seeing some major changes about six or seven years ago,” Steven Swartzentruber, the oldest of three sons involved in the business, says. “The local market was getting more competitive and the kind of furniture our customers were asking for was changing, too. We knew we had some tough choices to make.” The decision the Swartzentruber family faced was whether to try to compete at their current level, doing essentially what they always had done, or to “take things up a notch” and try to move Green Acres Furniture into a different market category altogether. They chose the latter, and in the spring of 2006, broke ground for a 10,000-square-foot, three level expansion of their showroom – bringing the total showroom space to 17,000 square feet. But that wasn’t all. “We knew the expansion wouldn’t be enough. People were buying less and less ‘traditional’ style furniture and asking us for things they had seen in decorating magazines, and in the trendy chain stores.” The bottom line, Swartzentruber said, was that, “A new store was not enough. We needed new products, too.”
So Steven’s brothers, David and Leon, went to work in the shop, working on new designs, new styles and completely new — even unheard of — finishes. The result? In the last five years, Green Acres Furniture has introduced dozens of new items, “things that we never would have dreamed just a few years back,” David Swartzentruber said. For example, one of the first new collections, The Devonshire Collection, is part of a trend toward “distressed” furniture looks. The Devonshire dining room table is styled like an old English farmhouse plank-top table “including the distressing,” David Swartzentruber said. “We start with solid cherry and then use a number of hand tools to almost ‘beat up’ the whole table.” Sometimes, David confides, people are surprised to learn that a premium wood like cherry is used to obtain such a “time-worn” look, but the look is stunning and the reaction from consumers has been very positive. “It’s definitely a popular set. Steven said. “We offer the dining collection and even some living room pieces in the Devonshire finish.” Many other collections have followed, including the very-modern “MOMA Contemporary” collection, the “French Country” group and the impressive “Havana” collection, which features a round, 10-seat dining table. “That’s the one that stops people in their tracks,” in the showroom and at home and garden shows, Steven says. “We like to call it our ‘wow table.’”
All of these groups are part of a growing number of new collections that Green Acres Furniture has introduced as it challenges “conventional” thinking about Amish-built furniture, and taking even bolder steps in designs and finishes. “A lot of the pieces on our floor that are best-sellers today, we could not have even imagined 10 years ago,” David said. But as much as Green Acres Furniture has ventured into newer looks, the Swartzentrubers are emphatic that they will never abandon their roots. As Green Acres Furniture prepares to celebrate its 23rd anniversary from Oct. 20-23, Steven reflects, “Times change and styles change and we have tried our best to respond to that,” Steven said, “But we know there will always be a market for traditional styles, and we will always feature the type of furniture that built our business. There’s room for everything.”
Green Acres Furniture is located at 7412 Massillon Rd. (State Route 241), approximately two miles north of Mt. Eaton in southeastern Wayne County. Phone: 800-807-0975 Website: www.greenacresfurniture.com