CHADWICK – When business owners around the world want furniture made from vintage cars, they often turn to Classic Couches, a 30-year-old, quietly thriving Chadwick business.
Classic Couches makes furniture from vintage cars, usually the '57 Chevy – "the quintessential 1950s car," owner Josh Kreuder said.
He can find you a car or use one of your own, paint it any color, give you chrome bumpers and a vinyl or leather interior ... even the lights work when he's done. Not in the mood for a sofa or chair? How about a counter, a desk or a bar?
About 95 percent of his customers are restaurants with a 1950s decor, Kreuder said.
Although he's sold his creations to diners from Moscow to Beverly Hills, he's never, to his knowledge, sold one to an Illinois customer, he said.
Kreuder, 30, bought the business 9 years ago from Eric Smith, who owned it 24 years before that.
Under Smith, who had a passion for 1950s memorabilia, the company's offerings were much more diverse, and he had 10 full-time employees. Business slowed in 2001, and by the time he bought it, it was "totally defunct," Kreuder said.
Kreuder had just graduated from an associate program in auto restoration at McPherson College in McPherson, Kan., and he knew Smith because Smith had restored a Model T that belonged to Kreuder's grandfather.
Kreuder focuses more on making furniture from automobiles, and on refurbishing vintage carnival cars and gas pumps, but he can restore anything mechanical – parking meters, pedal cars, candy and gumball machines, you name it.
He has one full-time employee, and he keeps a Fulton upholstery shop so busy that one of its employees devotes himself exclusively to Sweet Sofas. An auto body worker in Polo also works exclusively on Sweet's projects.
A sofa takes about 40 hours of work, while a kiddie ride takes about 80 hours, he said. Each sofa is one of a kind, and usually costs about $5,500.
The shop at 624 N. Main St. is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but he gets few visitors. The occasional automobile enthusiast stops by on the way to a car show, or a curious local resident will stop in sometimes, he said.
He often wakes at odd hours to communicate with international customers.
"From the time I get up to the time I go to bed is work hours," said Kreuder, who lives in Savanna, where he was born and raised.
"It seems like everything I do is a challenge. Nothing's ever the same."