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Sargent’s EarthJunk is well known to quality furniture buyers nationwide
by Betty Sayers
Many people, especially younger people who may have grown up thinking that plastic laminate over particle board is just how furniture is made, are amazed the first time they encounter a real American-made Ethan Allen cabinet or Tell City chair.
“Most new furniture is made of fast growth wood,” said Cindee Haddix, who along with her husband John owns EarthJunk in Sargent, Nebraska. “The wood is not durable and it can’t be stained because fast-growth wood lacks wood grain and needs to be painted.” Characteristics of quality furniture are seen not only in the grain of the hardwood, she said, but in dovetailing in the drawers, curved crown glass in the breakfronts, and reinforced corners of the chairs to make them last for generations. Pointing out the mellow glow of an Ethan Allen cabinet, she adds, “I dislike particle board. If it doesn’t hold up a shelf of books, don’t buy it; buy something meant to last forever.”
Cindee and John have been collecting antiques and quality furniture for years. “We are collectors first and sellers later,” Cindee said, adding, “I have a modest disease of ‘keep-itis’.” They incorporated their company in 1997 and began selling furniture online and shipping nationally in 2000. Today, they are one of eBay’s exclusive PowerSellers, which gives them benefits for reaching specific goals in sales volume, customer satisfaction, policy compliance and account standing.
Although EarthJunk owns a number of buildings in Sargent, including the former hospital, a former nursing home and a downtown emporium, they have no regular retail hours; buyers make appointments to shop the decorated galleries or to pick up purchases in Sargent and save on shipping.With one exception.
Junk Jaunt opportunity
Buyers who visit Sargent during the annual Nebraska Junk Jaunt — this year it’s September 28, 29 and 30 — will have a chance to stroll through 29 decorated display rooms and see EarthJunk’s extensive collections of fine-quality American furniture and antiques in person.
The nursing home and hospital John and Cindee bought in 2011 have been repurposed into colorful and tasteful display rooms for the furniture, fine antique carpets, unique wall papers and antique overhead lighting. The historic Abbott Emporium downtown features turn-of-the-century oak store fixtures and an extensive collection of antiques and collectibles, also thoughtfully showcased.
Cindee researches decorator books to find the colors and wallpaper designs appropriate to specific collections of their Ethan Allen and Tell City furniture. In each display room, two walls are painted and two walls are covered in a quality, often historic wallpaper to offer a feast of rich colors, fabrics, and style. Customers are invited to sit in the chairs and around the fine dining tables for a unique furniture buying experience.
A systems approach to organization
Cindee, a former educator, uses a systems approach to marketing, sales and cataloging the many thousands of antiques and pieces of furniture that pass through EarthJunk.
“We analyze our processes, evaluate the results and change whenever we figure out a way to improve a process to achieve better outcomes,” Cindee said. For example, “We learned packing the hard way.” She said they studied the failures in packing when furniture they had purchased arrived broken, and devised methods to pack even odd-shaped and fragile things securely.
Tracking the huge inventory EarthJunk maintains is a challenge, but very necessary. “If you see something online that you like,” she said, “we need to be able to locate it.” They evolved a system that modifies the Dewey Decimal system so the first number indicates a broad category such as furniture, with each succeeding number providing more and more specific information.
Their stock of furniture is largely supplied by auctioneers, antique dealers and managers of estate sales who know of Cindee’s interest in Ethan Allen and Tell City and call her when pieces become available. The furniture is displayed and photographed, then advertised on the Earthjunk.com website and on eBay. Cindee says, “We also offer direct sales in Sargent, and we offer a discount to customers who drive to Sargent to collect their furniture.”
Made in America
Cindee and John believe that America’s economic strength comes from U.S. factories and the employment generated by manufacturing. They lament the cumulative effect of outsourcing manufacturing — and especially the manufacturing of furniture — to Asia and Indonesia. All the furniture in their collection was designed and manufactured in the United States whereas currently both Ethan Allen and Tell City manufacture in Asia and Indonesia at a lower cost, and, as Cindee suggests, reduced quality.
“Our mission,” Cindee says, “is to rid planet earth of all junk furniture, thereby the name Earthjunk.com.”
Along with “made in America,” they champion small, rural Nebraska towns and the people who populate them. Cindee compliments her staff of one fulltime and eight part-time technicians, who maintain the Earthjunk.com website, handle the finances, paint the walls, hang the wallpaper, sew draperies, pack the furniture for shipping, and arrange glassware and furniture.
“All of our staff live in Sargent or nearby, and the profits return to Sargent,” Cindee said. “I grew up at Taylor on a ranch. I was born in the west wing of the hospital in Sargent that we now own and my grandmother lived in the Sargent nursing home that we also purchased.”
Among the plans for the future is a Wallpaper University — a week of classroom learning and practical experience on the art and craft of hanging fine wallpapers. Cindee says she also imagines opening a restaurant serving fresh and local food someday.
Entrepreneurs are where you find them. Sargent was lucky the day they found EarthJunk
Who to contact:
PO Box 10
Sargent, Nebraska 68874
John Haddix, (402) 350-6740
Cindee Haddix, (303) 907-0793