Makers of the Johnnie Chair Remain Open

April 18, 2017 | By Tim Pratt

A Johnnie Chair sits in McDowell Hall in Annapolis
A Johnnie Chair sits in McDowell Hall in Annapolis.

When furniture manufacturer E.A. Clore Sons, Inc. announced last year that it would be closing, company officials expected a slight surge in last-minute orders.

The family-owned company in Madison County, Virginia, has established a loyal customer base since it started handcrafting furniture nearly 200 years ago, including St. John’s College, which has purchased “Johnnie Chairs” from the company for years.

Instead, E.A. Clore Sons was swamped with orders, says company President Troy Coppage, with St. John’s alumni putting in dozens of requests for Johnnie Chairs. The chairs—listed on the company’s website as Plain Master Chairs—are found throughout campus in Annapolis and Santa Fe, and are viewed nostalgically by many alumni.

The influx of orders, including those by St. John’s alumni, has caused the company put its closing plans on hold, Coppage says. E.A. Clore Sons now has a six-month backlog on orders, Coppage says, and is staying open indefinitely.

“Orders are coming in as fast as we can make them,” Coppage says.

E.A. Clore opened in 1830, with Moses Clore making chairs with his two sons, James Osborne and Joel. Joel is said to be the originator of the curved back chair, according to the company’s website. The chairs, usually constructed of oak, were methodically carved with split bottoms.

The company’s catalogue grew over the years to include bedroom, dining room and living room furniture; tables, chairs, rockers and stools; mirrors, clocks and office furniture.

St. John’s has been ordering Johnnie Chairs for its Annapolis and Santa Fe campuses for years. The Annapolis chairs are typically made of walnut and cherry, Coppage says. Santa Fe chairs are typically made of oak.

Since the closing announcement in May of 2016, alumni from both campuses have been ordering the chairs individually, in pairs or in sets, Coppage says. Some of the chairs have been ordered with the St. John’s logo; others have been ordered without it.

The chairs are made in batches and typically take weeks to complete, with the bending of posts and other handcrafted features, Coppage says. The company is still taking orders for them, Coppage says, and will do so for the foreseeable future.

“Since we made the announcement last May, the response has been overwhelming,” Coppage says. “It was crazy here for two to three weeks. It’s been a somewhat steady stream ever since.”

To order a Johnnie Chair, call E.A. Clore Sons at 540-948-5821.