For years I’d been searching for a matched set of vintage wooden folding chairs. Recently, just as I was about to give up and start buying mismatched ones on Craigslist, I found them.
The very first day I looked, I saw a Craigslist ad for 57 vintage wood folding chairs, posted by a guy named Cody.
I was the first person to respond to the ad, so I got an appointment to see the chairs. When I arrived at the address, it turned out to be this imposing institutional building in nearby Rockridge:
I rang the bell, a women opened the door, and I asked for Cody. She said “oh, you mean Brother Cody.”
Turns out this was a Dominican Friary, selling the chairs they’d used for decades for events (probably 60+ years), having finally decided to get new plastic ones. When you walk inside, it feels like a different century.
The Dominican Order, as Brother Cody explained to me, was founded around the year 1200 and is similar to – but different from – Jesuits and other Catholic Orders (in England Dominicans are referred to as Black Friars because of the black cloaks they wear over their white habits).
Brother Cody was in his twenties, just starting out, and eager to explain the history – as eager as he was to get rid of the chairs, a job he drew as low man on the totem pole.
The chairs, stacked in neat rows in the storage attic, were awesome: in great shape, with tons of character and beautiful patina, and at $15 each a total bargain. It took two trips in the rain to cram them all in my Nissan Leaf and get them home.
Amusingly, the chairs have stickers that say “Abbey Rents” on the back – this was the company that originally rented (or sold) them out to the Friary. Brother Cody and I agreed this was a funny coincidence; but he noted that while an Abbey is similar to a Friary, technically a Dominican Friary is not an Abbey.
Abbey Rents was started in the 1920s by a Jewish guy named Stanley Slotkin, and became one of the biggest party supply companies in the U.S. (see his obit and Wikipedia page).
This was one of the strangest and most interesting buying adventures I’ve ever had, and the chairs are one of the best purchases I ever made! You can see them in action here.