Sofa, divan, davenport--I thought we were supposed to be buying groceries!

Detrie Furniture

by Joseph Wise © 2004

This year Detrie Furniture celebrates its 75th anniversary. While few remember the day Detrie first opened, none can forget its legacy of quality, affordable furniture. Lindley Detrie started with an intricate, oil-stained dining set, which he made by hand and sold from his father’s Main Street general store. Now, with its own factory and seven showrooms, Detrie Furniture has grown into a commercial giant.

Come along as we celebrate Lindley’s dream, and the employees whom Lindley Detrie used to gain his success. While you’re here, enjoy free soda pop and hot dogs, and shop our wonderful gallery. We have something for every imaginable style or taste, and the prices are perfectly suited for today’s modern homeowner.

Nat Vindust: Woodworker

Nat Vindust learned at an early age to appreciate the natural beauties of the world. He could often be found sketching trees and flowers in his youth, and in this way he also learned to appreciate art. It was quite by accident that Lindley Detrie discovered the young man’s talent for sculpture and offered him a job as a designer and a woodworker.

Nat found it quite offensive to work with lumber-—what he would call an act of desecration-—but his need for artistic expression was strong. So, he found a way to avoid guilt. His goal: to create furniture so beautiful, it would regain its will to live.

And so the Vindust line was born. Regarded by many as the crème de la crème of Detrie Furniture, Vindust’s designs served as icons for many early fliers and brochures. But when the couches and tables began to grow new leaves, and the need for a gardener came with every piece, Lindley Detrie no longer found it cost-effective to display anything Nat Vindust made. Many of his later works can now be found in storage, struggling to grow in the windowless dark.

Artie Studd: Mechanic

At Detrie, the tradition had originally been to create furniture that would inspire a sense of the world’s old-fashioned luxuries. In the beginning, most of Lindley’s pieces were inspired by European designs long since regarded as antique. But as the client base grew, so came the need for newer design, and thus Detrie began to manufacture various metal furniture, in addition to its classic lines. These were crafted by machine rather than by hand, and it was Artie Studd’s task to make sure the machines ran properly.

But Artie, being alone in this part of the factory, would grow restless from his long, arduous shifts. His old love for music inevitably returned to help him pass the time.

During slow hours, he would train his machines in the arts of symphonic performance. Before long, the automated drill press had developed perfect pitch, specializing in a selection of classical German compositions. In the months following this first success, Artie added to his ensemble a tin-stamper with flawless rhythm, a buffing chamber with unfailingly melodic undertones, and a welding arm with the voice of an angel.

While no Detrie employee could resist attending Artie’s concerts, the music spelled its own doom in the end. In perfecting their talents, the machines found very little free time in which to produce furniture. Detrie’s modern line slowed to a halt. Lindley, despite once being an aficionado of classical music, was eventually forced to replace all of the “disobedient” machines with ones that would operate as intended.

Vivian Huento: Glazes and Varnish

In the modern years of Detrie, nearly all of the furniture was stained and varnished through a fully automated process. Yet there were still pieces that required special artistic attention in the way they were finished, and it was Vivian Huento’s job to assure that every product was finished as specified by its design. With a vast array of brushes, sponges, and even a few specially crafted fountain pens, Vivian gave a unique appearance to each piece that passed her way.

The first few weeks of her career at Detrie were interesting ones. The previous finisher (who had been less than adequate) saw to it that all of his belongings were removed from Detrie on the day of his termination. Unfortunately, a few items owned by the company went missing that day as well. This included the wall clock, and although the purchasing department had been very prompt and exact, a shipping error occurred, leaving the new finisher with only a sundial.

Though this may have worked well enough, the finishing room was deep in the third basement, and light came only from the fluorescent tubes above. The result was that, while inside the finishing room, time simply would not pass at all.

Vivian thought this advantageous, as she could complete an entire day’s work, and be home again only minutes after having left that morning. Every so often she would feel especially productive, and double her workload without drawing on any of her free time.

At first, Lindley Detrie agreed with Vivian that the circumstance was fortunate. But certain situational factors often caused orders to be changed, and on these occasions it was essential that the finisher be present to facilitate the difference. Yet whenever this occurred, likely Vivian had gone already, having worked a full day somewhere between 8:00 and 8:01 a.m.. In business, such matters would not wait for the morning after. As time was of the essence, Lindley immediately ordered the removal of the sundial, and the installation of an electrical clock.

Vince Isoral: Credit/Collections

As Detrie expanded, and its customer base grew, Lindley soon found it necessary to offer some of his larger accounts lines of credit. While, at first, the responsibilities of these accounts fell to Lindley himself, it eventually became too time-consuming a task. Vince Isoral, being the superior candidate, was soon hired as Detrie Furniture’s senior Credit and Collections Officer.

He found the pay more than adequate, but he was not at first happy with his office. Given that his position was new to Detrie, there were few rooms left for him to occupy at his hiring. So, he was given an old storage closet in the northwest corner of the Detrie building. He couldn’t complain at the size, for it was quite large, even as he accrued cabinet after cabinet to house his files, but he was not pleased at its blatant lack of windows.

After awhile he found it unbearable, and took the matter up with Lindley Detrie himself. Lindley immediately offered to “change the view,” so to speak. On the backs of some expired contracts, Lindley drew a pleasant summer’s day, and nailed these papers to the wall near Vince Isoral’s desk. With the scene intact, Vince found his situation much more amiable.

During free moments, he would sit and watch the wind blowing through the leaves, and the flocks soaring past. In the fall, graphite raindrops pelted his window and the puddles grew thick in the walkway. During winter, deep snowdrifts covered the ground and penciled frost laced across his view. Spring blooms surfaced from the waking soil and sometimes the smell of new grass found its way into his office.

This initially did nothing to hamper Vince’s performance. If anything, it improved his work. But in his third year of employment, he chanced upon the sight of a young woman through his window. Day after day she would sit on the bench in his courtyard, and eat a delicate lunch before leaving sight. Vince, though a professional to the end, was enamored by this stunning beauty, and he found it difficult to concentrate on matters of credit and collections. Lindley Detrie became concerned, and kindly asked Vince to remove the distracting window. Vince Isoral agreed.

But before doing as Lindley asked, Vince resolved to finally speak with the young woman, and nervously made his way to the courtyard in which she sat. He even devised an eloquent speech, so that she might return his affection. However, Vince was disappointed to find that, beyond his office wall, there existed no courtyard, and no girl. There were only steel bins, and a loading dock.

He returned to his office immediately. Though he could clearly see that the young woman had not yet finished her lunch, Vince Isoral took his paper window from the wall. It was folded and carefully set in the bottom drawer of his oldest file cabinet, and never removed again.

Shortly after the death of Lindley Detrie, Vince was moved into a larger office, which thankfully had several windows. Some of his files were moved to new cabinets in new parts of the building, but many of them remained in the dark old closet. On venturing back to that room for an old contract or record, Vince still finds it filled occasionally with the smell of new grass. At times he even wonders if the beautiful girl still eats her lunch on that same bench, and he wonders how her eyes would look if they were not merely drawn from pencil.

Remmy Depp: Waterworks

In the early days of Detrie Furniture, the setting was known to be rather drab. But as the employee base grew, Lindley realized morale could possibly suffer from his building’s lack of flair. After visiting the local gallery of modern art, he gathered a few interesting names.

The task of hiring an artist to dress his building proved quite arduous. He found a young man with an astonishing talent in sculpture, but his particular style, it was thought, could be utilized elsewhere. He hired Nat Vindust to make furniture instead, but that still left the matter of decoration. Lindley was at his wit’s end when alas he chanced upon Remmy Depp.

A foreigner with an exotic travel bill, Remmy had until this point been very difficult to reach. But he agreed to meet, and to show Lindley Detrie what he could do. Remmy’s specialty was in fountain making, and in this field he had few rivals.

He created three fountains for Detrie Furniture: one indoor, two outdoor. None of these involved any stonework, but instead were complex arrangements of angled pipe, which were designed to shoot intersecting streams of water into the air above. When at last the water was supplied, even Nat Vindust found himself astonished at the artistry. Remmy could do amazing things with his water.

One fountain created an image, which, when viewed from certain angles, resembled a man and woman embracing in a slow waltz. Another fountain showed a riverboat circling an island of flowering apricot trees. The last showed a group of children, tumbling and playing together.

The motion and complexity of these fountains was striking, and just as the employees became accustomed to finding the patterns in the mist, they began to vary. The man and woman would slip into a fast mambo. The riverboat would stop to let its passengers pick the ripening fruit. The children would settle into games of marbles and checkers.

In time, none of Detrie’s employees could keep from involving themselves in these displays, and becoming soaked clear through before remembering that these were merely made from water. Detrie did not mind the wet employees, as long as they were dry again before sitting at their desks, but eventually his tolerance ended.

In time, the fountains began to disturb the very productivity of which Lindley Detrie had become so proud. Employees would try to board the riverboat, or else they would wait for hours to see if the dancing man would finally propose to his belle. And perhaps worst of all, the children, in reality little more than clouds of ghostly gray moisture, would grow bored and run through the building, leaving trails of wet footprints on desktops and workbenches.

Lindley resolved at last to put an end to these costly distractions. He apologized to Remmy Depp, paid him handsomely, and tore down all of the fountains.

So that the void would be felt less severely, Lindley contracted with a manufacturer of abstract triangles to “spice up” the grounds with their products, and these did well enough to steady morale. In fact, many employees resigned to call these new sculptures “unique,” and “classy.” But, to this day, one might still find the memory of Remmy Depp and his work. When bending to sip from any of Detrie’s drinking fountains, it would not be uncommon to catch the muted rhyming of young voices, or the sad hum of a waltzing violin.

Lindley Detrie: The Founder Himself

As a child, Lindley Detrie was precocious. He was smart for his age, and very well rounded. In school he earned top marks in every subject, from mathematics to art. Even then, it was obvious that Lindley Detrie would be an aggressive, successful individual.

In his first years of college, Lindley studied the arts. He enrolled in drama, writing, painting, and sculpture, demonstrating unbelievable talent in every area. But as soon as his father gave him management responsibilities in the family’s general store, Lindley Detrie decided his fate lay elsewhere.

As he became more and more involved in the store, he studied extensively all matters of business. He completely dropped his less useful courses in favor of finance, marketing, and management. Soon he graduated at the top of his class, and Humbolt Detrie fully gave Lindley the responsibilities of the store. That was the beginning of Detrie Furniture.

Lindley chose to fill the shop with furniture not for its ability to be seen as art, but because it fit a then very empty market niche. For a while, Detrie Furniture was the only place to buy quality furniture within hundreds of miles. “My success,” Lindley once said, “was inevitable.”

Few people know much else about the man behind the name. During his later years he even became something of a living myth. Those closest to him tell interesting tales of a brilliant recluse.

Lindley himself designed all of the furniture in the early years. He had skilled carvers bring his sketches to reality, but the initial idea was always his own. However, as Detrie Furniture grew, he found very little free time in which to scribble down his ideas. He announced one afternoon that he would soon be hiring designers to complete those tasks for him, and he would concentrate purely on the executive matters of the company. He was rarely seen again.

Lindley controlled his furniture company from the confines of his spacious office, sending runners to different parts of the building to administer his management decisions. His voice was rarely heard, even as telephone technology became more efficient. Still, his lack of appearance did not prevent certain rumors from trickling through the staff.

There were those who said he had taken on another face and voice. They said he looked and sounded much different than any had remembered. Stranger still, many employees reported seeing him in the forth basement (the lowest level of Detrie) where all things seem snuffed and muted. Apparently, he would sit in the corner of an unused closet, humming softly the most beautiful tune. And while none that saw him upstairs recognized the Lindley Detrie he or she had known before, all that saw the pale man in the basement knew his face very well. They could have been entirely different men.

And so we bid adieu to days gone by, and the people who’ve passed through our company. In the years to come, Detrie Furniture promises to become an even better place to buy quality, affordable furniture, in all the modern styles and colors. The talented employees who still remain, and those who are yet to come, will be sure to make this happen.

As for our dear customers, we wish you the same kind of success Lindley Detrie and his once small furniture company have had. If you have been with us through these past seventy-five years, we thank you for your loyalty and business. And if you are new to us, we hope that you make Detrie your furniture store of choice, and visit us through the next seventy-five years. We promise to bring the same quality and devotion that Lindley Detrie himself would have demanded, if still alive today.


This story charmed me with its nearly Dickensian millieu. Detrie Furniture strikes me as a terrific place to work. I'm just sorry I can't order a chair or two for my kitchen. Hope you liked this unusual piece. -GM

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