For three generations, the McMahan family of Campbellsville Handmade Cherry Furniture have been creating furniture that is both beautiful and built to last.
The company got its start in the 1930s, when T.B. McMahan built furniture reproductions for an antique dealer. In the 1940s, he and his seven brothers opened their own handmade furniture shop. Amazingly, the enterprise has continued through today, with Eugene McMahan, a son of one of the eight brothers, and his own son, Patrick, at the helm.
That long history almost ended in 2010 when the warehouse was destroyed by fire, and the showroom was seriously damaged. The losses were so great that Eugene thought about ending the business; at that time, Patrick was considering other career paths. But instead, the family and the business rallied. Patrick came on board and they had the warehouse rebuilt within four months of the fire.
The younger McMahan’s influence can be seen in the range of styles now created and sold at Campbellsville Cherry.
“My wife and I are big into mid-century modern,” Patrick says. “It’s really hot right now. We’re big collectors. We just kind of bring that flavor into what we’re doing now. We’re doing a lot more contemporary stuff.”
But the antique styles will always have their place in the business.
“The bread and butter for us has been the early American federal period: cannonball beds, chest, dressers, that style.,” Patrick says. “We also do arts and crafts styles. Mission has been popular for years. Contemporary mid-century modern, Shaker style. We’ve done a few Victorian pieces. Anything anybody can think of or dream of we can pretty much make it.”
Campbellsville Cherry’s southern roots are on display with a variation on the sugar chest. Sugar chests were lockable containers used in 18th and 19th century Kentucky to store sugar—then an expensive commodity. The design is still coveted by collectors today.
“The sugar chest is famous in Kentucky,” says Patrick. “There are so many different variations out there, but we’ve been doing a traditional style for a number of years. Now we’re doing two or three different versions of it. We’ve taken the sugar chest and are adapting it to more modern times. We’re doing some wine chests, which is basically the same thing as a sugar chest, just adding a few details to change it up.”
This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2007, which originally aired on Nov. 14, 2014. Watch the full episode.