Amish furniture ‘sells itself’
It’s been about six months since Chriss and Laurie Stutzman opened their furniture store, and the business has done exceptionally well, Chriss said.
“We believe our furniture sells itself once people get to see it, feel it and touch it,” he said.
The furniture is Amish-crafted and 95 percent of it comes from Ohio, where the Stutzmans lived prior to moving to the area four years ago.
They were “living the American dream” in Mt. Eaton, Ohio, Chriss said, noting he had a business that involved buying standing timber and land. But they felt called by God to the mission field and sold everything and moved out to Montana, completed a Discipleship Training School at Youth With a Mission’s Pablo campus and made a two-year commitment to the ministry, he said. (The couple grew up Amish but left that lifestyle in 1998.)
They traveled across the U.S. and to Egypt, Morocco, Japan and Samoa, with Chriss sharing the gospel through Power Feats of Strength. This involved bending steel, breaking bricks, running through 2x4s and bursting rubber water bottles with one’s breath. These represented examples of things the couple faced in life, and they were able to share their life story through them, Chriss said.
When in Samoa in December 2015, they felt a different call. “I felt God leading us to start a business,” Chriss said, noting that he had wanted to start a high-quality furniture business if he ever left Ohio.
“At first I thought we’d have to be in Kalispell or Missoula, but why not be here?” he said. “People ask us, ‘Why Polson?’ I say I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
The business is the only one in the state that sells Amish-crafted furniture exclusively, he said.
Customers range from Whitefish to Missoula and beyond.
“The Amish don’t compromise” when making their furniture, which “represents quality, integrity and attention to detail,” he said.
Their hardwood furniture includes red and white oak, maple, cherry, hickory and walnut.
The store also sells some softwood furniture from Amish in Rexford, including blue pine and Douglas fir.
Chriss explained that when some American furniture makers began moving their operations overseas in the 1980s and ‘90s, the Amish stayed true to their craft and consequently became the No. 1 maker of hardwood furniture in the U.S.
Furniture that comes outside the country is typically made of particle board with a veneer finish. That has its place in the market, Chriss said, but he believes solid wood furniture is best.
Stutzman’s Amish Crafted Furniture also sells canes, quilts and outdoor furniture made from recycled milk jugs. The outdoor furniture is virtually maintenance-free and comes in 15 colors.
Custom furniture orders based on type of wood, stain or size can be ready in 8-10 weeks, he said.
The business is located at 201 Second St. East on U.S. 93 (Second Avenue) in Polson.
Business hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The phone number is 406-319-2555. The business can also be found on Facebook.
“If it continues going on the pace it’s going, we’ll have to expand,” Chriss said.