Let quality speak for itself
King Furniture is located about an hour north of the Greater Toronto Area; just outside Orangeville, or it might be Laurel. We’re still not sure. The company doesn’t have a website, so its location can’t be found there. A Google search turns up a couple of yellow pages-style directory listings, but the address is rejected by GPS.
Google Maps seems more than happy to provide directions, only they land you in the middle of some obscure farmland a few hundred feet from the Orangeville water tower. No King Furniture in sight.
Finally, owner Mike Taylor gets on the phone. Yet, even with the careful guidance of the one person who knows his business better than anyone, it’s easy to miss. Basically, King Furniture is a small barn beside a house and a playground that double as daycare grounds tended to by his wife. Asked why he doesn’t have signs to help people find him, he replies, “I once put up a sign down the road, but the wind blew it away. What are you going to do?”
In fact, Taylor seemed surprised Wood Industry even heard of him. After introductions, he asks, “Why do you guys want to do an article on us?” While his question might reveal a fair bit of humility about himself and his business, it also reflects how he does advertising— which borders on doing nothing.
As stated, he has no website. He has no easily visible signage. Social marketing? Doesn’t care for it. What exactly does he do for advertising? As Taylor explains it, “Well, we run an ad in a local house and home magazine. We have a listing in the phonebook. That’s it.”
Which begs the question: Just how else does he get the word out? For Taylor, it literally is one word that makes the difference: “Quality.” That’s it. He continues, “If you have a quality product, people are still going to find you.” Asked if he would stake the quality he produces to anyone else’s, he responds without hesitation: “Of course.”
Taylor’s dedication to the concept of quality was instilled by his father, from whom he took over the business years back. Taylor’s dad, just like his dad’s dad before him, served in the Canadian military. Taylor himself enrolled in the cadets, but stopped short of following the family tradition of becoming a soldier. He says, “The lure of making money and standing on my own was just too great.” So he followed his father’s footsteps in another way, by taking up professional woodworking as a trade.
After leaving the navy, Taylor’s father became a farmer. When that venture fell upon hard times, he worked for a friend, who then owned King Furniture. Taylor’s father bought the business, which started out as a one-man operation focusing solely on furniture refinishing. Dad taught himself about the business, and expanded into manufacturing.
Mike Taylor, the son, comes across as humble and modest, but a great sense of pride comes over him when he talks about his family history, and especially his father. He says, “My dad was old school. He’s still one of the best that I know of as far as furniture manufacturers go.”
The economic high point for the family business occurred in the ‘80s and ‘90s, when they were picked up by Harvest House, which Taylor endorses as the “dog’s head of retail solid wood furniture” in the region at the time. Taylor says that his father built all of Harvest House’s furniture inside a 20,000 square feet facility that employed about 15 people.
However, once Harvest House started its own manufacturing, it was inevitable that the other shoe would drop, too. Business declined significantly for King Furniture. Taylor’s father expanded into retail, calling that side of the business: The Great Canadian Solid Wood Furniture Company. Taylor ended up taking over the King Furniture side of the business, which began specializing in finishing.
Today, King Furniture is significantly smaller than it once was but, as Taylor puts it, they are currently “crazy” busy. He has three employees, which he describes as family. In fact, they are, with one being a brother-in-law and another his wife’s cousin. Taylor considers himself to be a worker right alongside his employees, and even shows angst during our interview because he’s not helping the guys finish orders and keeping up with business.
While quality is a signature principle that allows the business to differentiate itself from others, it’s not the only thing that makes it different. Taylor says his prices are usually better than that of his competition. In fact, he insists they are. He says, “I know so.” He continues, “Look, I live and work out of a barn. I no longer worry about a retail store. My overhead is low. That’s how I compete.”
Andy Naismith works upstairs in what might be considered the loft of the barn. He’s one of the manufacturers Taylor uses on an outsourcing basis (along with a number Amish in the Kitchener area). For Naismith, two more principles help contribute to King Furniture’s success. He says, “When we can, we insist on buying Canadian so we can put money back into our economy. Customer service is also paramount. It’s one of the reasons the customers usually come back.”
Quality, value, customer service, and Canadian pride come together as a formula that seems to work for King Furniture — even if we’re still not sure where it is, or if anybody else does, either.