11-year-old John Martin, owner and founder of Martin’s Chair, Inc., was walking home from elementary school when he passed the Good’s Chair shop. Christian Good, the owner, asked John if he could mow and sweep for them. He did small chores for Good’s until he was 16 and was able to obtain insurance to work on equipment. At 19 years of age, John married a woman named Joyce, and just a few short months later, John began his career in the chair business.
“One morning,” John tells me during our interview, “Mr. Good came in and said he wanted me to take him to New Holland so he could see his accountant. I sat there in the accountant’s office until he called me in. We chatted a little bit about the weather until they told me they wanted to talk to me about something. They asked if I had a dollar on me, and I told them I had two.” The gentlemen asked if he wanted to part with one of those dollars and he was hesitant to do so, until Mr. Good offered the deal of a lifetime. If John agreed to part with one of his dollars and pay the rent of the house and the shop for several years, the business would be his to own. “I gave up that dollar pretty fast,” John says, laughing. Martin’s Chairs, Incorporated was formed.
John’s daughter-in-law, Teresa Martin (showroom manager), describes John’s story as “the all-American story of a hard working kid who bought his business for a dollar.” And that was 53 years ago.
Teresa married into the business, and is married to John’s youngest son. Before she began working at Martin’s, she was a daycare teacher but was looking for something different. John hired her as a secretary, but at times the store was so busy that she had to jump onto the sales floor. “I ended up falling in love with it,” she says. “I loved working with the customers and really believed in the product. I also have a background in antiquing and selling, so it ended up being something I really love to do.”
Although the team at Martin’s Chair, Inc. has capabilities of creating furniture of any style (from traditional to contemporary to primitive), their most well known product is their 18th century line. The 18th century line is a series of Lancaster county reproduction furniture. The Martin’s Chair team researched, designed, created, and marketed the line which became very popular and created customer loyalty amongst many.
Martin’s Chair works with a number of designers and retailers all over the country, and even all over the world. You may recognize the two large tobacco leaf chairs at the Lancaster Arts Hotel (formerly a tobacco warehouse) in downtown Lancaster. These chairs, found in the lobby, were based off of a small clay model. They also built all of the Lancaster and Mount Joy Hospice beds, television units, chairs, and tables.
What really draws retail customers and designers to Martin’s Chair, Inc. is the personality. Martin’s is not just a chair manufacturer. They give personalized service and create quality products they are willing to stand behind with their own name.
The beginnings of a business are lead by personality from it. From the beginning, Martin’s Chair, Inc. has been a family-owned business created under one man. From their service to their vast array of capabilities, Martin’s Chair is a growing, top notch company built from a small town mentality.