Repurposed inventory creates new furniture line

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For more than 100 years, furniture manufacturers have been clients of Globe Vise & Truck. But with the launch of a new furniture division, Globe will begin repurposing its material-handling equipment into coffee tables, wine bars, shelving units and the like.

Globe has been helping furniture companies make furniture since 1904 — so widely so that furniture dollies were known locally as “Globe carts.” Steelcase, Herman Miller, Kindel and Baker all have been clients.

“You name it, we’ve been there,” said Globe’s Ted Velie, the originator of the new furniture division.

When assessing what the business needed to do to stay competitive in today’s market, Velie looked to the past. Beyond continuing to use the same machinery and processes for generations, Globe has been intertwined with some of the most longstanding companies in Grand Rapids. In some ways, the company is a preserved piece of the city’s industrial history.

Velie began by going through old files from past jobs dating back to the 1920s, picking out old designs that inspired him. For the 31-year-old Velie, finding a corporate IOU book documenting the borrowing of a few screws or the drop in prices due to the Great Depression was like finding a time capsule of an age when things were built to last.

One of the new division’s first furniture pieces, the McInerney Bar, was named for the spring and wire company for which it was originally designed as a butcher block cart.

Globe begins this new venture in a time when many consumers are interested in investing in products with a history and businesses with a purpose. When Velie’s father, Dennis, owner of Globe Vise and Truck, had the opportunity 15 years ago to buy back old inventory at $2 per piece, he turned it down due to lack of storage space. But now, companies are beginning to see the value in recycled products.

In a society where everything on the shelf is imported, mass-produced and disposable, being able to put out a product with a breath of authenticity has value, Velie said.

All of the prototypes have been taken from original designs, and some of the pieces are being made from antique materials that for decades actually were used in factories.

“What we’re making is not IKEA furniture,” said Velie. “It’s heavy by definition; it’s going to be around for a really long time. And I think there’s something comforting in that.”

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