Publisher's Forum

Futon Frames by Pete and Dave

Whatever Happened to Pete and Dave

Ben and Jerry, Siskel and Ebert, Bert and Ernie, Dave and Pete, some partnerships just seem to work. During the past ten years I've had the privilege of doing business with some very creative and innovative people in the futon industry. Pete Dodge and Dave Chadbourn of Tilt Chair are two of those people. Dave and Pete started their company, Tilt Chair, in Pete's apartment on Cedar Street in the Riverside section of Minneapolis. They made wooden furniture, a few pieces at a time. As the futon mattress made its way onto the scene Dave and Pete saw and took advantage of a golden opportunity in the futon industry. With Pete's design sense and Dave's penchant for sales they took their small company to great heights. By 1992 they were one of the best known and most profitable futon frame makers in the country and had outgrown a third floor factory space on Stinson Boulevard in northeast Minneapolis.

"By 1993 we could no longer fill the demand for our futon products nor apply the kinds of finishes our customers needed," said Pete Dodge. Together they found a 50,000 square foot facility on Hiawatha Avenue that seemed perfect. They were also eligible for state aid that included funds to purchase the building and outfit it with the necessary equipment and fixtures. "The first year we were on Hiawatha Avenue," says Dodge, "we discovered that we had lost, for a variety of reasons, a substantial amount of money, and were no longer eligible to buy the building."

Like many small futon companies Tilt Chair, even with all its profitable years of business, was still cash poor. They relied upon a line of credit with their local bank.

"As renters our overhead soared," said Dodge. "and because we could not close on the building we could not buy the new equipment we needed to make our futon product competitive in an increasingly sophisticated market. Futon sales declined, overhead was up and we couldn't stop losing money."

By the spring of this year the company started to make a turnaround, but it was a classic case of too little too late. The bank called in Tilt's line of credit and on July 31st Tilt Chair of Minnesota closed its doors. The company is still in existence but is not doing business, and has no assets.

Even though Tilt is no more Dave and Pete are still making futon furniture. Pete Dodge has hooked up with Chet Stoler and Marty Biafora, and is doing futon consulting work at the new Casual Lifestyles plant in Billington, WV. Dave has started a new futon company called Welcome Home which is already shipping futon products to a limited clientele. Not willing to give up on a winning formula, Dave's futon products bear an interesting resemblance to the People Sleeper futon frame, Cheapy Sleepy, the Northern Light and the Sled Bed.

Pete, who sent me a short letter describing the last two years, and Dave, via several telephone contacts, added their thanks to all their futon customers for the good years. I can only add my compliments, and those of our staff, to their efforts, and wish them both all the success life can offer.


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