AMESBURY — Most furniture sold today is made overseas, but it wasn’t long ago that most of the furniture sold in the big department stores like Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s was actually manufactured right here in Amesbury.
In its heyday, Chatham Furniture Reproductions Inc. was a successful furniture manufacturer that employed 240 people in two factories and supplied high-quality cherry and maple wood products to stores across the eastern U.S.
But as was the case with most other American manufacturers, the pressure from foreign competition ultimately proved insurmountable.
Chatham Furniture was one of the last American-made furniture manufacturers in New England before it officially shut its doors on July 30, and on Friday the company will auction off the last of its inventory.
“Everything must go,” said Paul Kapela, owner and founder of Chatham Furniture, who added that the furniture is worth $200,000 and he hopes to sell it all.
The auction will begin Friday at 2 p.m. at the company’s headquarters at 4 Poplar St., and the building will be open for a preview starting at 9 a.m.
For Kapela, Friday’s auction is a sad but inevitable end to the business he first started in a single-stall garage in Haverhill in 1962 when he purchased a table saw for $125.
While he worked seven days a week making all the furniture he possibly could, Chatham Furniture grew slowly but steadily throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s. Kapela first moved the company to Amesbury in 1972, and over the course of his 50 years in business, Chatham Furniture never wavered in its commitment to high-quality, American-made furniture.
“All of the years we were in business it was strictly solid wood product,” Kapela said. “We never used chipboard, flakeboard, plywood, none of that stuff. It had to be solid, native New England lumber.”