John Woodfield, owner of Lincoln
Antique and Furniture Center at 112 S. McLean, says his similar but
larger operations in Chestertown, Md., draw customers from a wide
area. In fact, he considers the clearance merchandise and used books
in his Lincoln facility such potential draws that he has placed them
on upper floors to pull customers past his furniture showrooms.
The third floor carries discontinued
items and canceled orders from his Woodfield Furniture Manufacturing
in Maryland. Once, he said, he allowed only retailers in his
clearance outlet. Now he opens it to the general public.
The used book operation, expected to
open by midsummer, will shelve at least 100,000 books. Most come
from estate sales.
Lincoln Antique and Furniture Center
has been in business since March 20. "We were deluged with friendly,
welcoming people at the opening," Woodfield said enthusiastically.
Store hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
He describes the Lincoln store as a
more casual and relaxed business than his East Coast operation. For
example, in Maryland he has a refinishing shop with full-time
furniture restorers. Here the restored pieces are brought in. There
he offers a number of lines of new upholstered furniture; here he
has just one line of fine hand-upholstered furniture -- Friendship
-- and to simplify ordering, each piece has just one price
regardless of the fabric chosen. Even if the customer supplies the
fabric, the price remains the same.
Though the store offers both new and
old furniture, Woodfield is partial to the old. As a child he liked
exploring his grandparents' attics and basements. By age 16 he was
on his own, buying used furniture, refinishing, restoring and
selling in flea markets. In 1972 he incorporated Woodfield
Enterprises, which now includes a regional antique center, an
auction house and a used book store in Maryland. At one time he even
owned a restaurant in Annapolis and a fleet of ice cream trucks.
Lincoln Antique and Furniture Center is
located in the former Lincoln Furniture & Floor Covering building,
which Woodfield purchased from the estate of Glenn Buelter. The
building was constructed in 1905 by the Independent Order of Odd
Fellows. Originally, the first-floor tenant was Langellier Motor
Company, which displayed cars in the front window. Lodge meetings
were held upstairs, and the second floor was rented out for social
Woodfield said in Maryland or elsewhere
on the East Coast a building like this would cost at least half a
million dollars. In a town with the historic nature and charm of
Lincoln, he said, private homes would also be almost out of reach.
Woodfield spent over $100,000
refurbishing the building. Projects included removing dropped
ceilings; installing drywall, emergency lighting and a fire alarm;
replacing heating, air conditioning and some windows; and interior
painting. The stoplight in the third-floor window is purely a
When customers enter the store, an
employee offers to give them a ride to the third floor and let them
walk down. The current elevator must be operated by staff.
Eventually, Woodfield said, he intends to install a "real elevator,"
one that customers can run.
[to top of second column in
[photo by Lynn Spellman]
Woodfield said he specializes in finer
name-brand furniture, including Ethan Allen, Roxton Temple Stuart
and Pennsylvania House. Another specialty is antique paint finishes
on both new and refinished furniture. On the second floor are some
dedicated rooms with distinctive types of furniture, such as Amish
oak. Otherwise, old and new pieces mingle throughout the showrooms.
"It's the only store I know like it," Woodfield said. "Nobody's
copied the format."
Woodfield chose to come to Lincoln
because of a long-standing acquaintance with the Rev. S.M. Davis,
pastor of Park Meadows Baptist Church, and a desire to spend time at
Davis' church. He met Davis through the latter's national ministry
to families. Woodfield quotes friends who told him, "You're the only
person we know who could spend some time in another area."
Business interests in Maryland and the
fact that the East Coast is the largest source of American antique
furniture mean that the family will shuttle between the two
locations as the need arises. Currently, almost everything in the
Lincoln store comes from the East.
Pete Ross, former bureau chief of
payroll services for the Illinois Department of Human Services,
manages the Lincoln store. Other employees are Susie Albert, Dee
Baughman, James Harris, Scott Brosamer and Dan Powers. All,
including Ross, work part-time.
When in Lincoln, other members of
Woodfield's family also work in the store. They include his wife,
Theresa, and children Johnny, 20, Julia, 19, and Josiah, 11, who is
Ross said of his new undertaking, "I
enjoy it. I went to a lot of auctions and was around furniture
anyway." At auctions he looks for bargains, though he said the
increasing number of dealers makes them difficult to find.
In the Midwest Woodfield also intends
to frequent estate sales and auctions. "At home, I just wait for the
phone to ring," he volunteered. "I buy whole housefuls." He said he
creams estates, taking the better pieces for his stores and
disposing of the rest through other outlets.
He bought Woodfield Furniture
Manufacturing from a bank after imported furniture nearly put the
25-year-old company out of business. His formula was to let salesmen
go, stop doing shows and downsize the company to cover just repeat
business and referrals. "We made the company the size of the market
share, not the size of the building," he explained.
Woodfield is a certified appraiser of
appreciable personal property but says he no longer has time to
opening, the Lincoln store has experienced two successful break-ins
and a third attempt. After the first robber took the contents of the
cash box, procedures changed to include nightly removal of money.