When was the last time you stopped by Windsor Chairmakers on Atlantic Highway just north of the Beach? Have you ever? Since it’s been there for 32 years, it’s surprising how many local people when they do come in, say “I’ve been driving by this place for years, but never stopped.”
Walking in the other morning to speak with new owners Mike and Jana Timchak, not my first time in the showroom, I was struck all over again by how much there is to see. Two houses full of handmade furniture, in fact, 18 rooms and a large, sunny space all across the back, the Shaker Gallery. I wanted to touch every piece, run my hands over the silky finishes, imagine one of those chairs in my house.
MONDAY, Dec. 2
Recreation Committee, 5:30 p.m., Town Office
School Committee, 6 p.m. Room C-1, LCS
TUESDAY, Dec. 3
Veterans Park Committee, 3 p.m., Town Office
Needlework Group, 4-6 p.m., Library
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 4
Watercolor Journaling, 4-6 p.m., Library
Winter Camping, 7 p.m., Library
THURSDAY, Dec. 5
Soup Café, Noon-1 p.m., Community Building
Conservation Commission, 4 p.m., Town Office
FRIDAY, Dec. 6
Family Music Together, 11 a.m., Library
SATURDAY, Dec. 7
Intro to Pickleball and Open Play, 9-11 a.m., Lynx Gym, 523 Hope Road
Book Signing, Noon-2 p.m., Library
Beach Tree Lighting and Community Party, 4 p.m., Beach
AA meetings, Tuesdays & Fridays at 12:15 p.m., Wednesdays & Sundays at 6 p.m., United Christian Church
Lincolnville Community Library, open Tuesdays 4-7, Wednesdays, 2-7, Fridays and Saturdays, 9 a.m.-noon. For information call 706-3896.
Soup Café, every Thursday, noon—1p.m., Community Building, Sponsored by United Christian Church. Free, though donations to the Community Building are appreciated
Schoolhouse Museum open by appointment, 505-5101 or 789-5987
Bayshore Baptist Church, Sunday School for all ages, 9:30 a.m., Worship Service at 11 a.m., Atlantic Highway
United Christian Church, Worship Service 9:30 a.m., Children’s Church during service, 18 Searsmont Road
Dec. 15: Carols in the Round
Yes, the Timchaks are the “new” owners of Windsor Chairmakers, but they’re hardly new to the business that the late Jim Brown founded in 1987. Jim had been working as a furniture designer in Highpoint, North Carolina, where he came up with the idea of starting a workshop in Maine to build Windsor chairs. The 1840 farmhouse in Lincolnville that he bought is the center of today’s complex of buildings. With the workshop in the barn and the next door house now annexed to the first, Windsor Chairmakers is an impressive place.
Meanwhile, as Jim was in the very beginning stages of building his dream, a young man from Connecticut was making his way up the coast. Even as a child Mike Timchak knew what he loved doing. Hanging out in his uncle’s carpentry workshop, repairing the antique furniture his mom sold (learning how things went together and the places where they broke), being “dragged all over New England’s historical places” Mike had a rather unique childhood. The second oldest of five children, it was a family of artists, quilters and knitters, people who made things.
At fourteen he built his first chair, a Windsor stool, and earned a Boy Scout woodworking badge. His favorite classes were shop and drafting. Then, when the family vacationed in Kennebunkport one year, Maine had him hooked. He began exploring the state, more and more sure he wanted to settle here. He found his house on Main Street, Lincolnville, and in 1987 Mike and his Golden Retriever moved in, the house where he, Jana and their two sons live today.
Jim Brown hired him on the spot when he came by looking for work in the spring of 1988. Windsor Chairmakers showroom had opened, making and selling two styles of chairs – an armchair and a side chair – and a small table.
It was some two or three years later (they can’t agree on the year) that Jana, an upstate New York native and an artist, stopped by the shop with her mother. As they looked around the shop she noticed the young guy working quietly in the corner.
“Never once looked at me,” she says.
“Oh yes I did; you just didn't see me,” he replies.
“Why can’t I meet a nice, mellow guy like that,” she wondered to her mother after they left. A few months later she was back, this time working as a finisher. Jim had hired her, she swears, because she played the fiddle. Within a couple of weeks she and Mike were dating, and in short order, engaged and then married.
Jim Brown was a master marketer, realizing early that an attractive setting would bring people in off the road. When a next-door property, the Croes farm, was for sale he bought that and brought in a small herd of Scottish Highland cattle. A wooden seesaw under the apple trees kept children busy while their parents shopped. The bucolic feel of the place was intentional.
Jim expanded the line of furniture to include dining tables, beds, cabinets, benches, each new design added to the growing showroom. But then, in 1996 Jim was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and everything changed. As his illness slowly progressed, Mike assumed more and more responsibilities for the business especially custom design work.. Jim passed away four years ago; this past March his wife, Nance, sold Windsor Chairmakers to Mike and Jana. The Timchaks have added many new designs to the Windsor Chairmakers line of furniture since taking over and will be adding more new pieces every year.
The place is open six days a week, year round. Though their busiest season, as any coastal Maine business that relies on tourists will tell you, is Memorial Day to Columbus Day, they’ve never closed a single day. Most pieces are custom made, from the finish the customer wants to the size of a table or a specially-designed piece. Wood samples with every possible finish are on display, as are table leg styles, and various turnings.
Windsor Chairmakers uses only native woods – ash, pine, tiger maple, cherry, walnut – and as much as possible, these are locally sourced. An exception might be cherry, for example, as the best cherry comes from Pennsylvania.
The chair seats are from pine logs, which Robbins Lumber sets aside for Mike. The logs go to Dave Flanagan at Viking Lumber in Belfast; he rough saws them into planks. Those pieces are air-dried in their drying shed up to a year and a half to a moisture content of 20%. From there they go into a kiln that takes them down to 6%.
The finish on the furniture consists of an aniline dye or 18th century-type milk paint, followed by two sealer coats, a glaze coat, two coats of lacquer, finish sanding with 320 grit, polishing with Scotch Brite, a coat of beeswax and scuff sanded with 0000 steel wool. No wonder I can’t resist running my hands over it. All these finishing products are environmentally safe.
The workshop has been blessed for many years with the talents of Julie Cook, Lincoln Clapp, Steve Mckeen and most recently, Crockett Lalor and Nick Baranowski.
Mike will make a sketch of a proposed piece, and for a $200 deposit refundable up until the day they start to cut the wood, he’ll do a finished drawing and even make a small model, sending back and forth the wood samples until the customer is satisfied this is how he wants the piece to be. It’s not uncommon for someone to pull out their phone and call home, asking for measurements or photos to plug into the design Mike is making for them.
One woman settled into a certain rocking chair, quietly knitting and wasn’t noticed for an hour or more. “I want to make sure this chair is just what I need; I knit for hours at a time.”
“Stay as long as you want,” she was assured. Sure enough, she ordered the rocker with a small modification. It’s done and ready to be shipped in time for Christmas.
Pieces are sold right off the floor during the season, but the sale is dependent on leaving them in place until Columbus Day. Jana keeps a paper and pencil calendar to schedule things. A typical week may find the workshop turning out six chairs and a couple of beds or tables to fulfill orders.
Shipping, and in fact, managing the showrooms (all 18 of them) has fallen to Jana since she and Mike became the owners. Shipping is almost as complicated as building the furniture. Chairs are often boxed up in a specially-made crate, then sent via various delivery services. Tables are disassembled, legs taken off, etc., wrapped in soft blankets and sent to Portland to a “white glove” delivery service which specializes in fine/antique furniture. They’ll bring it right into your house and re-assemble it.
A bare bottom chair has proved popular over the years. The chair bottom is left unfinished, shipped to the customer with special pens to have the underside inscribed for a special occasion. For example, a retirement gift may have messages from co-workers or an anniversary or birthday is noted. When the bottom is returned the chair is completed and the hand-written notes covered with finish.
The Timchaks are eager to use their business to give back to local organizations; donations to the Lincolnville Community _Library have included three tables, six chairs and the head desk; this past summer they donated a chair that was raffled during the Library’s Summer Picnic and Auction. Also this spring the Lincolnville Business Group made some $800 for their local scholarship fund on a donated Windsor chair.
By the way, Windsor Chairmakers is having its Annual Holiday Showroom Sale these weeks with special marked down prices on various pieces of furniture, a perfect reason to make that long-deferred stop at the shop. Oh that, and the hot cider and homemade cookies Jana dishes up when you come in out of the cold.
Mike considers himself a lucky man to be working with this core of people, doing the thing he loves, making beautiful furniture the best way he knows how, and in the place he’s chosen to call home. It’s what we all ought to strive for.
Christmas By the Sea: Tree Lighting
This Saturday is the annual Beach bonfire, carol singing and tree lighting on Lincolnville Beach. Come at 4 p.m. ready to sing; Morgan Keating, a New Hampshire musician with L’ville Beach connections, will once again be leading the carols. The bonfire is always amazing, Santa arrives by fire truck, and we all troop up to the LIA building for cookies and goodies and a visit with Santa afterwards. See you there!
Contact Tracee and/or Ed O’Brien if you can help with cookies, decorating or bonfire: 380-3899.
It’s a busy week in the Library:
Tuesday, 4-6 p.m., knitters and needleworkers will gather.
Then Wednesday, 4-6, the watercolor journalers will take over.
At 7 p.m. Wednesday Lincolnville’s Matt Silverio, chief of Northeast Mobile Health Service’s Mountain Rescue Team, will talk about winter camping. He’ll discuss proper layering of clothing, moisture management, and essential things to carry along for recreating outside in winter. He will also tell what people should do when lost or injured in the wilderness and how the search and rescue response teams work in Maine. Matt, who grew up just up the road from the Library has been camping, skiing, climbing, paddling, and running in the Maine woods for more than thirty years. Come by and hear his story; he says he enjoys camping in the winter more than summer.
Friday at 11 a.m. Jessica Day will be at the Library for Family Music Time. Bring along your little ones for an hour of fun.
Saturday, noon until 2 p.m., Dr. Caer Hallundbaek, author of Dear Little One: Thoughts to My Child in an Uncertain World, will be at the Library to sign the new edition of her best-selling book. Written to inspire readers of all ages, Dear Little One offers a parent’s loving reflections on many aspects of life—friendship, faith, health, aging, money, fear, hope, love and grief. She will also have copies of her book Inspired Relationships: 7 Saints' Real-Life Lessons on How to Live, Love and Work, an insightful and innovative tool for relationships at home, at work and in community. Dr. Hallundbaek is an award-winning writer and radio host on matters of spirituality and life transitions. The books are $20 each.
Art Show at the Coop
Stop by the Belfast Co-op to see Lincolnville’s Robin Brawn’s exhibition of her newest collages, “Bits and Whispers.” Robin started creating collages as a teenager and has not stopped since. It was very therapeutic to cover boxes, trunks and notebooks with magazine pages and words that resonated with that time of life. Today her collages include antique ephemera, photographs,
found objects, inspirational quotes, and many layers of handmade paper and paint. This new show is titled “Bits and Whispers”. She has a studio full of art bits from flea markets and whispers from vintage books. Her art continues to be a source of spiritual healing. The Co-op café is a stop on Belfast’s Holiday Art Walk, December 6, 5-7 p.m.
Carols in the Round.
Save Sunday afternoon, Dec. 15 for the beautiful a cappella candlelit performance of traditional English, German, French and American carols by the Mount View High School Chamber Singers held at United Christian Church. The doors open at 3:30, performance starts at 4.
Sympathy to the family and friends of Dorothy Koski, long-time Lincolnville resident, talented and well-known church organist, mother, wife. I always enjoyed her playing at UCC for various events.