Looking back on the 1980s and how busy we became making furniture, there's a part of me that would like to believe that the reason we were busy was because we were so good at our work.
While there may be some truth to that, the reality is that the decade was simply a time of excess. Reaganomics created an economic boom of epic proportions, and the economy was literally awash in cash. And with excess cash, people bought stuff - lots of stuff, including furniture.
In hindsight, it was impossible not to be busy.
But that era was also a time of imbalance, and deep down I just knew that sooner or later things were going to correct themselves.
Perhaps the greatest indicator of how out of balance things were at the time was the rampant use of cocaine - the stuff seemed to be everywhere. As Robin Williams once said: "cocaine is God's way of saying you're making too much money." And in the 1980s there was probably more snow in New York than the North Pole.
The movie Scarface (1983) and the television show Miami Vice (1984-1989) truly reflected the mindset of the times.
One example of how insane that era had become was the number of tables we had to refinish because of people using razors to inadvertently cut lines in the finish. This, however, was almost exclusively a New York phenomena.
The piece de resistance came in early 1987 when we had a custom commission for a massive 25' long wall unit, complete with built-in bar and entertainment system. The material was quarter cut oak, and the finish was a custom silver metallic automotive paint polished to a high sheen. The client was a young, high rolling Wall Street trader living on Long Island.
Two days before the scheduled delivery we had just completed the finishing touches on this unit, and were preparing to disassemble it for wrapping and loading onto our truck. Later that evening, while watching the news, I almost barfed my supper. Right before my eyes, on national TV, I watched in disbelief as the client for this unit was led away in handcuffs - caught up in a sting that alleged stocks being traded for cocaine.
(It took a bit of searching, but I found a link to the story here):
I couldn't believe this was happening. If this guy was being thrown in jail, how were we getting paid? I was in no position to inventory a massive silver metallic wall unit, and it was likely going to take one heck of a discount to get someone else to take it off our hands.
As it turns out the guy was innocent and soon cleared of charges, and we ended up delivering his unit a few weeks later.
More importantly, we got paid.