A seat for students: Ludlow chairmaker supplies UVM
By Christian Avard
Staff Writer | November 27,2012
Clear Lake Furniture’s Brent Karner stands with his chairs in UVM’s Memorial Lounge in the Waterman Building.
LUDLOW — A busy University of Vermont building is now furnished with 150 wooden chairs — and all of them were made in the Okemo Valley.
The final shipment of Vermont-made stack chairs from Clear Lake Furniture of Ludlow arrived at Memorial Hall at the Waterman Building last week, according to Jeff Wakefield, UVM associate director of university communications. UVM ordered 150 cherry wood stacking chairs that replaced old ones that had been used for years, he said.
All of the chairs were manufactured with Vermont-made materials and are now being used by students and visitors alike. Clear Lake Furniture owner Brent Karner thinks Memorial Hall will get great use out of them for many more years to come.
“When you make a chair that’s going into a commercial setting, you really want to have structures that are strong. There was quite a bit of engineering that went into these things,” Karner said.
Memorial Hall at the Waterman Building is a widely visited location on campus. It is used for classes, lectures, and public events.
The chairs at Memorial Hall had outlived their usefulness and when it was time to make a decision, UVM vice president Richard Cate told administrators to buy local. The university sent out requests for proposals and Clear Lake Furniture was selected.
“The Waterman Building is the central point for many functions and visitors who come here to the university. I think it’s a great place for them to be on display and to show what we stand for. People are much appreciative of the change,” Cate said.
Karner knew where to look for supplies and services to manufacture authentic Vermont-made chairs. Sheahan and Sons Lumber of Weathersfield did the milling; Don Heaton Upholstery of Chester did the fabric work; and a Bethel logging company provided cherry wood lumber.
The chairs being used at Memorial Hall are Waterman Stackers. Each chair is made from 41 separate pieces of wood. (That’s 6,150 pieces for 150 chairs.)
Their innovative designs make them strong and stackable and they recently won first prize at the Vermont Fine Furniture and Woodworking Festival, beating out entries from Pompanoosuc Mills and Copeland Furniture.
“You can go six high with these things,” Karner said. “They’re very comfortable for tall people 5 foot 6 inches or taller, or if you’re shorter you can sit on them with your feet a little bit off the ground like ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ They are comfortable for anybody.”
Clear Lake Furniture benefitted from the project, which kept his business going during an economic downturn, Karner said. He and two full-time employees manufactured the chairs in three months’ time.
“The guys I have working for me are highly skilled. They build high-end furniture from start to finish and keeping these employees is super important,” Karner said.
For more information on Clear Lake Furniture visit www.clearlakefurniture.com.