Spotlight on Business | Harkins Rocking Chairs and Furniture

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Harkins Rocking Chairs and Furniture

Anyone who said that old-fashioned was no longer marketable, never met Greg Harkins. A Master Chairmaker out of Vaughan, Mississippi, Harkins is keeping with age-old tradition and runs his business as such, crafting hand-made creations like those dating back to the 19th century and before.

For more than 35 years, Harkins has built hand-made furniture including rocking chairs, beds, tables, straight chairs and benches at his local workshop. You’ll find no mass production machinery, just old-fashioned wood turning supplies and wood that Harkins hand picks from his land. He uses only hardwood materials that he selects, cuts, and mills himself. He then hand turns and carves each piece and even hand weaves the seat and backing of his chairs. He uses pegs in his creations and never uses contemporary nails, except to hang his trophy mounts to the workshop wall. Each piece he crafts takes approximately 25 man hours.

Harkins is a member and Fellow of the Craftsmen’s Guild of Mississippi and served on the Board. He is also a member of the American Craft Council and the Louisiana Craft Council. At the beginning of his career, he apprenticed under Master Chairmaker, Tom Bell, who made a living at his craft for almost 70 years and has been revered as the top master craftsman to which all chairmaking is compared in Mississippi. Harkins attributes his time with Bell with not only helping him in building a career but crafting a way of life with the knowledge to succeed.

Part of the Craftsmen’s Guild’s mission is to promote craft skills among new generations in order to keep the tradition of high quality work going. Harkins has taken that to heart and offers chairmaking classes at his workshop. Classes are held for 6 days and are $100 plus the price of the chair. His techniques have been passed down from the mid-1800s and still prove superior to mass-produced pieces made today. Each piece Harkins completes is dated and signed for authenticity; his signature marks his guarantee for life.

Harkins’ master crafts are known around the world. His creations are in more than 30 countries and in the homes of many famous names such as Former Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter; Former Vice President Dan Quayle; Paul Harvey; Bob Hope; George Burns; and John Glenn. In addition, his famous "Plantation Rocker" was presented to all the Southern Governors in 1990. As a sixth-generation Irish Catholic, Harkins was most honored to build for the late Pope John Paul II, and as a proud Mississippian he is honored to be a long-time friend and chairmaker to Governor Haley Barbour and Lieutenant Governor Phil Bryant. Even though he has an impressive collection of A-list clientele, it’s his dedicated list of “good ole Mississippians” that has kept him going through the years and to whom he owes his greatest appreciation.

Harkins’ operation has grown beyond his craft in the many years since it began. He has saved the church his great, great, great, great grandparents built in the 1870s and has turned it into an entertainment venue simply known as St. Anne’s. St. Anne’s is open during select times of the year and serves catered dinners by reservation only. Menu items include family favorites such as grilled steak, fish, or chicken, as well as rabbit and quail dishes. A special treat is his renowned “Papa Doc’s Big Fat Tamales”, steamed to perfection with nuts and salt stuffed in the corn shuck and served with cheese grits and chipotle pepper sauce. These tamales are made with such care that Harkins requires them to be eaten with a fork “to avoid chewing your fingers off,” because they are so good; of course, this includes salad, tea, homemade biscuits, and dessert. St. Anne’s is available for any number of special events, and is the venue for “Church of American Music,” held several times a year where you can hear hometown southern fiddle music and relax in the days of old.

Harkins also offers Father/Son activities including guided hunts, fishing, and accommodations in an old traditional log cabin, which was built circa 1835 and was bought by his family in 1842. Buggy rides are also offered in old-fashioned horse-drawn buggies dating back to the late 1800s.

Not everything that Greg Harkins does is old fashioned. He has gotten with the modern era and proudly displays his business on the Web, despite his personal disconnection with modern technology, and accepts inquiries and orders via email and Facebook; however, it is much easier to reach him over the telephone.
 
For more information on Harkins Rocking Chairs and Furniture, visit his website at www.harkinschairs.com or give him a call at (601) 362-4233 or (601) 201-1480 

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