FURNITURE MANUFACTURING, once a leading industry and cultural mainstay in North Carolina, is becoming a lost craft. Since 1990, 60 percent of the state’s furniture-making jobs have left for factories in Asia, drawn to their lower material and labor costs.
Considering how much has changed in the industry—and what’s been lost in the transition—what’s most remarkable about Jean and Champ Land and the nearly century-old company they own, Troutman Chair Company, is all the changes they haven’t made.
“Part of the reason we’re still here,” says Jean, “is because we’ve stayed true to our niche.”
True to their state, too. Nothing in the company’s assembly process happens anywhere but North Carolina. Troutman Chair purchases oak from local loggers and mills the lumber on site. The pieces of wood for the slatted seat, ladder back, narrow arms, and runners are cut to dimensions so precise, they fit together without glue or screws. The rockers, which the company has made since 1924, are the product of the opposite of mass production. It takes 22 people about two weeks to make a single rocking chair—in a mill that sits on, yes, Rocker Lane.
By Charlotte Magazine Staff
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