FULTON - Sometimes life just seems to put you where you were always meant to be. Dave Waldron never thought he’d be selling furniture. He was a happily-employed lab tester at Nestle’s. He didn’t really want much of anything to do with the furniture business his parents had started up as a hobby out of their barn in 1963. But three years into that startup, he started going to auctions and estate sales, buying what he could. The business was used furniture in those days.
“When I got involved,” Dave said, “I’ll bet you I bought probably 150 estates or households. We’d go in and buy a whole apartment full or house full, and we had a store. At that time, we couldn’t get enough good used. You know, when you’ve got something used and you sell it, it’s gone.”
And that was enough to teach Dave that selling used furniture was not the way to go.
“With the new,” he said, “you can sell it and pick the phone up and say ‘Send me 50 more.’ It’s an altogether different thing.”
With new, he said, “there was an inexhaustible supply. You can get all you want, no problem.”
And so, the longest-running furniture store still in operation in Oswego County began to evolve into what it is today, a very homey, local outlet for high-quality, mostly American-made living room, bedroom, and dining room furniture for sale at reasonable prices.
“That’s what we carry,” said Dave. “We’re big on recliners.”
And I should say they are. Two large buildings, tightly-packed with furniture, make up the impressive amount of inventory in stock, and a lot of it is recliners. And if they don’t have exactly the one you want on the floor, they’ll get it for you in any color or material available.
I remember the first recliner my family bought sometime in the ‘60s. You sat down, planted your arms firmly onto the arms of the recliner and gave a solid push backwards with your back until the footrest popped up and the back reclined. Getting it all back down usually took even more effort.
Fast-forward a good 50 years and you’ll find you have a few more options in recliners, and though sitting down into one is about the same as ever, that’s all that’s the same. Reclining is a breeze and getting up and out can be virtually automatic. Today, Dave can get you a regular recliner, a wall away recliner (one that can be put close to a wall), a rocker recliner, a swivel/rocker recliner, a swivel/glider/rocker recliner, a power chair, or a lift chair that’ll just about stand you up to help you out of the thing.
“It’s like seven different ways you can get that chair,” Dave said.
Furthermore, there are also two-motor power chairs. Two independent motors make it possible to adjust the back and footrest independently.
“Some people like to work the back and have it at a different angle from the bottom,” Dave explained.
Of course, that’s not all. There are power lift chairs with lift, heat, and massage. And in case you don’t have enough technological marvels in your life, you can now get a power recliner with Bluetooth connectivity, enabling you to operate the whole thing from your smartphone. There’s even a recliner with TV-tilt headrests, so you can power recline back while the headrest tilts your head forward. You’re left still facing the TV, but now there’s no more propping your head up with pillows.
Dave, being quite the historian of the furniture business, remembers a recliner from the ‘90s that had a landline telephone built into the recliner’s arm. Probably not quite as hot an item today.
Nevertheless, he remembered it rather fondly, though his 34-year-old son, Chris, didn’t quite react to that memory with the same sense of nostalgia. And so, they make a rather perfect team, Dave, the old pro with story after story of the way things were, who claimed he doesn’t know how to start a computer, and Chris, the young, technologically-adept, entrepreneur of today and tomorrow who’s put Waldron’s on Facebook and understands the demands of modern marketing. “You have to get on these things now to survive,” he said, as he patted the cell phone in his pocket.
Still, Chris respects the past and considers it quite something special that he’s the third generation future of this family business.
“Being the third generation to run the store, that means a lot,” he said.
Nevertheless, he’s making the most of new ways of doing business. Having a website though is not in his plans.
“For me to have a website,” he said, “I’d have thousands and thousands and thousands of models to keep track of. It doesn’t make sense. So, people can go on the factory websites and look at everything they’ve got, and I just order it.”
Chris has included a number of links on Waldron’s Facebook page to the websites of his suppliers. From there, his customers can browse thousands of pieces of furniture, decide on what they like, call Chris, and it’ll appear in Fulton in very short order.
Not exactly the way it was done back in Dave’s day, but maybe that’s what keeps this business in business where many others have disappeared along the way.
“You know,” Dave said, “at one time there was 10 of us (furniture stores) in the Fulton area, and there’s been a couple over in Central Square. I think Oswego had at least three, and Pulaski had one or two, and, you know, they’re just all gone. There’s been people too in Mexico that started up, that didn’t last. I don’t know. It’s a good business. I like it. In fact, I don’t even consider it work. But, I don’t know, a lot of people, they just don’t survive in it. I’ve seen so many dealers come and go. Everything’s OK as long as things keep selling. But when things slow down, then they’re gone. I’ve seen that for years and years.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes in the way things get run” he continued. “There used to be a lot of real quality furniture manufacturers around. There were quite a few in New York state. Just about everybody’s gone. There were a lot of small manufacturers around. There was one out in Richland one time. You had ‘em up in Camden. They’re pretty much gone, I’ll tell you.”
But Waldron’s is still here, at 763 State Route 176, near the corner of Route 8. Maybe it’s that they continue to evolve, continue to do what works. Maybe it’s their insistence on quality and honesty that keeps people coming back again and again, even for generations.
“Some families, I’ve sold the fourth generation,” Dave said.
And maybe it’s something about their independent-mindedness.
“Colonial used to be the going thing,” Dave noted, “and as far as everybody’s concerned, it’s died. But I don’t know, I just keep right on selling it. And people say, ‘God, you’re the only one that’s got it, you know.’ I say, I don’t know. It sells here. That’s why I’ve got it here.”
And then there’s this: Dave won’t sell just anything to anyone.
“If I’m going to sell ‘em something, I want to sell ‘em something that’ll last ‘em.”
He has refused to sell chairs that were destined to become problematic to people who wanted to buy them. He’d assure them the chair would not hold up.
He told one prospective customer, “You buy that, next thing you know, you’ll be calling up, ‘This is the matter, that’s the matter.’ You’re too heavy for it. You’re not going to be happy, and I’m certainly not going to be happy. I’ll fix it as long as the warranty lasts, and after that, you’re on your own. I said, ‘Right here is what you ought to have.’ Well, he ended up, he bought one of them big heavy-duty jobbers, never had a bit of trouble. In fact, he came back and got his wife a chair.”
That insistence on quality runs through Waldron’s entire line of furniture.
“Most of our bedroom furniture is solid hardwoods,” Chris noted. And their mattresses are all made in America and are double-sided, something I never thought could even possibly be a way of describing a mattress. Aren’t they all double-sided?
“That’s something you don’t see much anymore,” said Dave. “Most mattresses today you can’t flip. They’re single-sided, so you can’t flip ‘em.”
We’re one of the last places that sells double-sided mattresses,” said Chris.
All Waldron’s sales include free delivery. “And we take the old stuff away for free,” Dave said.
Out with the old. In with the new. Sort of a motto you might live by in the furniture business. But Waldron’s hasn’t forgotten its roots. Chris is quite active in the Fulton community. He’s on the Friends of Fulton executive board, sponsors the Fulton Block Builders, and has been very involved in fundraising and putting up some very interesting new park/playground equipment by the War Memorial in Fulton.
At this rate, Waldron’s Furniture may very well be around for another 56 years. But you might not want to wait that long before stopping in.
Waldron’s Furniture is open six days a week from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday. Their phone number is 315-592-7481, and you can find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WaldronsFurniture.