Furnishing the 60 Blog

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Mario Burata:  Dust is a protective coating for fine furniture.

My dad worked in retail for as long as I could remember.  He usually worked weekends and was off two weekdays, and it was a schedule the family was always used to. Mom didn’t drive, so Mom and Dad would grocery shop on his day off and we’d usually go out to eat the other weeknight.  Holidays like Memorial Day were just workdays for Dad.

Dad was the furniture expert.  For many years, he sold furniture at a high-end store on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  The store was owned and named for Daniel Jones, and, when Leslie and I were young teenagers (and we ran the elevators on Sundays), it appeared that the sales people were all middle-aged white men.  (More about that later.)  I remember one woman who worked there, and thinking back now, it seemed she had to work twice as hard to get sales.

They worked on a commission basis and the sales people rotated to take the next new customer who walked in the front door.  As a young girl, the store fascinated me, and the furniture always seemed expensive.  I remember hearing “it’s from South Carolina” or “this is a Daniel Jones exclusive” and the sales people were always selling and cajoling.

Whenever we needed furniture as a family, Dad always found what we needed.  As adults, and living in California, Dad worked at various department stores and was always able to get us good furniture at a discounted price.  We inherited a green leather sofa from my Dad and stepmom many years ago and we still put it to good use.  (I can easily fall asleep on it watching TV!)

However, Leslie and I have been wanting new furniture.  The accent chair is just not comfortable any more and we need a new look in the living room.  So on our way to a July 4th cookout, we stopped at Ashley Furniture to look at a couch we had seen online.  The store was filled with all kinds of shoppers and sales people.  You could tell the sales staff was just waiting to be called to handle the next shopper, and we had the name of someone we had previously spoken with on the phone.

What a multi-cultural experience!  Shoppers spoke with accents, were young and old, with children and without, and there were no middle-aged white men working as sales people that day.  The sales people are the demographic of the shoppers, of course, and I’m not complaining.  To me, it seems that middle-aged white men are not walking the floors of an enormous furniture store handling non-stop sales all day long, 40 hours or more a week.

Again, it’s not a bad thing.  Not a good thing. Just a different thing.  If we could go back in time and my dad and stepmom were in their 40s or 50s working in the furniture industry, what would they think?  Of course, if time travel was the norm, we wouldn’t have even been at Ashley Furniture, and we would have gotten our new couch and chair-and-a-half at a discounted price and maybe bought other furniture with our savings.