Vern Mefford settled into the Bloomington community in 1979. He spent most of the first year remodeling his new home. One of the first things he noticed about his home was that it offered an ideal spot to hang a porch swing.
In the fall of that same year, he began his quest to buy a swing. He searched through many stores only to be frustrated ans disappointed. What few swings he was able to find were of low quality.
"I was outright insulted by the poor craftsmanship. I would be embarressed to invite anyone to sit on a swing that was so poorly constructed-that might fall apart," Mefford said. "I had spent the past 15 years doing auto body repair and painting, so I decided I was going to build my own swing."
Mefford drew up plans for a swing that was contoured to the body, noting that straight backs were not comfortable. His design included curves to the back, rounded armrests and a rounded front. He moved the chain from the armrest to the back to keep it safely out of the way. He took his plans to Paul Goodman, now retired, who was well-known in the area for having quality wood. Goodman worked with Mefford, and the two discussed which materials would be best suited for his plan. Once the materials were selected, Mefford began to build the swing in his garage. He did not use nails or staples in his assembly, but opted for glue and screws for maximum strength. He gave the wood more than five coats of durable, waterproof polyurethane varnish to give it a deep, rich finish and for maximum protection of the wood. When the swing was finished he was pleased in knowing he had a swing of the best quality possible.
One of Mefford's neighbors, who was also a woodworker, was impressed with the swing. The Neighbor suggested he place the swing at the end of the front of his yard located on East State Road 46, to "show it off." Little did Mefford know that this would be the beginning of a new career. By the end of the first year, with his sons Mark and Aaron working beside him, he could barely keep up with the demand for his swings.
Warren Richardson, a friend of Mefford, became fascinated with the demand for his swings. He offered moral support and ideas on how to step up production without jeopardizing quality. "It took three years before I was convinced that the orders were not going to slow down. It was only after that time that I invested in good equipment that would allow me to produce at a faster pace without losing quality," Mefford said.
The most unique aspect of the Mefford swing is that he is able to customize them to meet the needs of his customers.
"I read a book written by Earl Nightingale on the key to successful business. Nightingale said to find a need and fill it," Mefford said. It was this philosophy that led to the creation of the Paul Bunyon model. While every swing is built to hold 200 pounds on each side, the Paul Bunyon swing is reinforced and is built to accomodate up to 350 pounds per side.
Mefford swings come in a variety of woods including oak, ash, walnut, cherry or mixed wood. Swing lengths range from four to six feet, and may be ordered in either high or low back.
Over the years pieces have been designed and added to the collection including rockers, swing gliders, canopies and end tables. All pieces are guaranteed on workmanship, finish, and wood quality under normal use. If well cared for, any Mefford creation should last a lifetime.
After 21 years of operation, Mefford Swings has grown from a one-car garage operation into a 3,500 square foot factory with full-and part-timecraftsmen producing fine handcrafted hardwood furniture. Mefford, who enjoys his occupation, keeps close watch on his inventory and personally inspects every product made at this factory to assure that his merchandise is of the finest quality. He believes that word-of-mouth is his best source of advertising. Mefford was featured the week of July 23 by WISH-TV on Ray Rice's "Indiana's Own".
Annette Alpert purchased a Mefford swing of few years ago. She is a satisfied customer and concurs that her swing is molded for the human body and is made for ultimate confort and relaxation.
"Darrel, Benjamin and I enjoy sitting out on our swing. The swing is lovely symbol of relationships. It takes you away from all other distractions and draws people together as a family," she said.
Mefford always warmly greets each and every customer and prides himself on being a storyteller. He says his is never too busy to swap tales with his customers.
"I am in awe and very humbled by the fact that I have had a direct affect on people's lives," he said, making reference that swings are used for rest, relaxation and leisure," I want to take this opportunity to thank the people of Monroe County and the surrounding counties who have supported me."
Mefford Swings is open the year-round. According to Mefford, Many people purchase his swings for Christmas gifts. He is able to deliver locally, and can ship UPS to any location with the US.
By Leanne Blackmore Behn
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