Dalton reupholstery business stays vital in 'dying trade' February 24, 2008
John Cumpston says he enjoys taking a piece of furniture that’s a “disastrous mess” and making it look new again. Barb and John Cumpston’s reupholstery business, Miracles Happen, is known for quality craftsmanship and reasonable prices. “It seems like each year we’ll do a little more,” John Cumpston says. “... It’s a dying trade.”
It's a place where miracles not only can happen, but often do. And it's named ... you guessed it. Miracles Happen. John and Barb Cumpston's reupholstery business is a place where your furniture will come back looking better than you ever expected -- a miracle, you might say. But the shop itself is a miracle, too, and for more than one reason.
Although the economy is faltering nationwide, Miracles Happen is doing relatively well.
"Most people, if their income is tight, they consider reupholstering before buying new," John Cumpston said. "The slower the economy is, the busier we are." However, it's not all the economy. In the 14 years the shop has been at its current location, business has increased steadily at about 15-20 percent per year.
Just in 2007, the Cumpstons and their one part-time employee created, worked on or re-covered 286 pieces of furniture -- that includes six truck seats, 32 new cushions and 30 cushions that were given new foam, 49 mower or tractor seats, 19 motorcycle seats, two deck umbrellas, 56 window cornices, 16 pieces of gym equipment, 12 restaurant booth seats, several church pews and "so many repairs we can't count" them all.
"We're one of the few small shops left," John Cumpston said. As other small upholsterers go out of business for one reason or another, the Cumpstons pick up their business.
"It seems like each year we'll do a little more," John Cumpston said. "... It's a dying trade." Among the services they offer is free pickup and delivery within reasonable distances. That's to prevent damage to the item between the shop and its destination, he said. They'll drive as far as Canton, Akron, Millersburg and Shreve, for example.
They'll cover or repair a variety of furniture, mostly indoor and outdoor household items, but they'll also do commercial items ranging from church pews to dentist chairs. They also do some work for furniture companies. "Every awning in town, we made," John Cumpston said. The more unusual requests have included repairs to suitcases, saddles, golf bags, school bags, purses, parachutes and trampolines. And they'll even make certain types of furniture, such as ottomans or window cornices. They'll use your fabrics -- many shops won't -- but with 500 books and more than 25,000 fabric samples to peruse, chances are you'll find what you want. But if you're hoping to have a new cover for the seats on your motorcycle or boat before summer, you'd better move quickly -- the current waiting list stretches into June. "I'd like to have it a little shorter, but I'd also like to keep this as a mom-and-pop," John Cumpston said. He averages 50 hours a week in the business -- 80 during peak seasons.
He also chooses not to advertise; new customers tend to come by word of mouth. People rarely question his prices because they heard from a relative or friend the Cumpstons do quality work. Customers have nothing but praise for the Cumpstons. "We've worked with John for a long time. He does excellent work," said Nancy Yoder of Nancy's Draperies in Marshallville. John Cumpston often makes cornices for Yoder's business. "He's a very good craftsman. We're always happy with his work," Yoder said. Kara Limbach, owner of Dalton Hair Designs, said John Cumpston was the only person willing to make the awning for her business according to her specifications. "No one else would make it for me (in) hot pink and black. He did it from scratch using boat material," Limbach said.
Nadine Wenger, who is a close friend of the Cumpstons as well as a customer, said the pair "would do anything for anyone and are always willing to help someone." "They are excellent Christian people, a positive asset to the community," Wenger said. Perhaps that is partly from their own personal experiences. Twenty-five years ago, John Cumpston was working in pizza delivery in Orrville when Tim Morgan of Marshallville offered him a job learning the upholstery business. In 1989, when John Cumpston was branching out on his own, he applied for a vendors license. That required him creating a name for his business -- he chose Miracles Happen because he had recently committed to giving up alcohol. On May 13, he will have been clean for 19 years. For the first few years, he ran the business out of his 12-foot by 12-foot garage in Marshallville, but by 1996 he needed more space.
A downtown storefront was available in Dalton, but the owner, Bud Powley, was requesting references. Cumpston couldn't provide any. "I said, I'm a recovering alcoholic -- that's who I am. He said, you're so honest, here's the key," John Cumpston said. For the first few years, the business struggled, especially when there were some illnesses in the family -- and like many small-business owners, they couldn't afford health insurance.
The Cumpstons fell behind in the rent, which prompted Powley to ask what it would take to get them back on their feet financially. John Cumpston said it would take $3,000, and Powley gave it to him, no questions asked. "He was good to us," John Cumpston said.
John Cumpston also expressed gratitude toward the many other people who have helped his business -- the office desk and copier both were donated, for example. "When we started, we had one small toolbox and an antique Singer," he said.
Now, the Cumpstons look for ways to give back to the community. As a business, they often make and donate pillows to benefit auctions. And John Cumpston is involved in Rotary and seeks to help others on the path to recovery from addictions. Ultimately, what keeps him in business is the thrill of working miracles on furniture. "I enjoy taking an old piece of furniture that is a disastrous mess and making it look new again," he said.
Sometimes, customers are reluctant to believe the piece of furniture he presents for pickup really is the same piece they dropped off for work. Many customers don't realize just putting new foam in cushions can make a big difference too, he said. "I enjoy watching that customer not believe that's their piece of furniture ... (they say), 'That's my chair, I just can't believe it looks that different,'" he said.
Miracles Happen is located at 33 W. Main St., Dalton and can be contacted at 330-828-0502.
Photo By Joel Troyer Article by RACHEL JACKSON Staff Writer The Daily Record