Contemporary heirloomsâ€” Wentworth seating and Belmont tables grace this lightfilled space.
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a tradition of handcrafted furniture Trademark customer service doesn’t end when the piece is completed
Dwight Sargent started building furniture more than 40 years ago in a garage near his house in Norwich on the banks of the Ompompanoosuc River. For a newly minted graduate of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, it was an unlikely business decision, but he really liked living in Vermont, and his first career choice didn’t mesh with his desire to stay in the Upper Valley. “I wanted to run a railroad,” Dwight says, but he realized that he would have to leave Vermont. “I really liked living here. I wanted to stay. I looked around, and I saw trees. I saw a resource.”
by Katherine p. Cox
photos courtesy of pompanoosuc mills
He’d built a few pieces of furniture before, and with a $2,000 loan from his father in 1973, Dwight built a shop, began making furniture, and took the pieces around to furniture stores. He also advertised in the classified section of the Connecticut Valley Reporter and people responded. He was still a student at the Tuck School, and by the time he graduated the following year, “it was paying me a living, and I had one or two people working with me. By 1979, I had 25 people working for me.” Three years earlier he had opened his first off-site retail store in Burlington. A store in Nashua, New Hampshire, opened in 1981. “I decided to stay away from Boston and the competition there.” Attention to Detail Is a Hallmark Today, Pompanoosuc Mills furniture is still handcrafted
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by 115 employees working in a 70,000-square-foot plant in East Thetford. Fronting the plant is an enticing showroom where their continually evolving lines of elegant and stylish furniture are on display. Nine other showrooms, including the original in Burlington, are in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Philadelphia, and Alexandria, Virginia. “I never wanted to be a small shop,” Dwight says. “I wanted to make furniture that would sell.” This reach and growth has not changed the central tenet of his business—working directly with customers, from design to delivery, to craft fine furniture that lasts, each order custom made. It’s what he believes sets him apart from similar companies. Dwight doesn’t look like a CEO of a $10 million company. Dressed in worn jeans and a work shirt, he strolls through the mazelike plant where he still has a hand in
Left: Pure elegance: The Vernon Double Pedestal Extension table paired with Mansfield chairs. Right: The Calais sectional, featured in both a living room and a dining room setting, can be ordered in any configuration and assembled in many different ways for ultimate flexibility when arranging a room.
That attention to detail is the hallmark of Pompanoosuc Mills, where each piece of furniture is made for customers according to design choices and wood preferences.
Dwight sargent Dwight had an idea that he wanted to build a full-service quality furniture company for people who wanted beautifully handcrafted furniture that was practical for everyday living. After more than 30 years in business, Pompanoosuc Mills continues to fulfill his vision.
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From start to finish, each piece is made in East Thetford by a loyal team of experienced Vermont furniture makers, some of whom have been with Dwight for more than 30 years, some straight out of high school.
all aspects of the business. He’s even been known to make a delivery himself. That attention to detail is the hallmark of Pompanoosuc Mills, where each piece of furniture is made for customers according to design choices and wood preferences. From start to finish, each piece is made in East Thetford by a loyal team of experienced Vermont furniture makers, some of whom have been with Dwight for more than 30 years, some straight out of high school. “I’ve got a great team,” he says. “We have people who love making furniture.” The designs are mostly his, Dwight says, “but customers have always had good ideas—pushing the envelope. ‘Can you do this?’ ‘How about this?’ Customers have always been a good source of inspiration, as well as our showroom staff. That’s the advantage of dealing directly with consumers.” One other in-house designer works with him as their lines continue to evolve.
Opposite: While most Pompy designs are for furniture, the Belmont lamp is an exception. It was designed and is also built in-house by Vermont craftsmen. Top: The clean, simple lines of the Reading bed and the ever-popular Thetford Hill rocker create an elegant space for nesting. Above: The Burlington dresser, inspired by mid-century modern design.
Clockwise from top: The concave curve of the Reading dresser demonstrates the superior craftsmanship that defines the Pompy workshop. The sturdy, practical New England hall tree comes in four standard sizes to fit most any space. Oriental in inspiration, the Mendon bed and nightstand are elegant additions to any bedroom.
Highlighting New England and Northeast Hardwoods From the popular and classic Shaker styles to Scandinavian and mid-century modern, customers can adjust the designs to suit their specific needs if they like and can choose the hardwood. Most of the wood comes from the Northeast, which makes transportation more economical, and includes ash, birch, oak, maple, cherry, walnut, and bird’s-eye maple. Dwight says it’s a conscious decision to use these woods. “We wanted to highlight New England and North American hardwoods. They’re great woods.” Tiger maple, spalted maple, quilted maple, bastogne walnut, and reclaimed redwood, sourced from 78 i m a g e t r e n d w a t c h •
other parts of the country, are part of the American Exotics line of hardwoods and are available for specialized pieces. Stains and finishes can be individualized, and upholstered pieces come in a wide range of fabric choices. Special Delivery The Pompanoosuc Mills trademark customer service doesn’t end when the furniture is made. The company has its own fleet of trucks, and each piece is carefully wrapped in blankets before it’s delivered to its new home. “We believe that the delivery is the last part of the retail sale. It’s the last contact. It’s where
Dwight says they were green before the term became current. The woods used in their furniture are mostly locally sourced and sustainable. we can continue the good experience for the customer.” Wrapping furniture in blankets during delivery is not only good for the furniture—it’s less wasteful and is part of the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability. Dwight says they were green before the term became current. The woods used in their furniture are mostly locally sourced and sustainable. “Ninety percent of our wood comes from Vermont and New Hampshire,” he says. “In Vermont, landowners get a property tax break if they are in a sustainable forestry program. Virtually all of our lumber purchased in Vermont comes from properties that are in this program.” Wood waste from production goes into the company’s own boiler building. “Our heating has always been with our wood waste. We chip all our waste. It’s automatically fed to the boiler and provides all our heat for our finish room year-round, and during the winter, it provides 50 percent of the heat. We also generate about 10 percent of our own electricity.” Dwight says the whole operation goes the extra mile, especially for its customers, and he is proud of the product that is the result of a dedicated team. “We’re making a product that’s going to last, that’s beautiful, and that will totally serve your needs,” he says. tw Pompanoosuc Mills 3184 Route 5 East Thetford, VT (800) 841-6671 www.pompy.com