Retailer offers the finer points of furniture shopping.
The process of shopping for new home furniture is no longer as straightforward as stepping into a furniture store. The internet holds hundreds of unique styles and price ranges, and social media offers its own take on furniture must haves. But for some local furniture retailers, continued success comes from supporting the tradition of shopping in-person for heirloom furniture.
To learn some shopping strategies, we reached out to Borofka’s Furniture owner Jim Borofka and its visual merchandising manager Hannah Zaske. With three locations, including in Woodbury, Borofka’s solid wood furniture inventory has driven its growth in nearly 30 years of business.
In a world increasingly committed to style over substance, how can consumers find and care for the perfect, lasting piece for their home? Borofka and Zaske provide insight.
To test the quality of craftsmanship, Borofka’s longtime method is the twist test, where one puts their toe on one edge of a furniture piece (such as a chest), then lifts and twists from the top. “There’s some pieces that you’re like, ‘Whoa. I have to put it back. I’m going to twist it right into a pile,’” Borofka says. “That conveys to me whether they’re building it for just the look of it, or they’re building it to last.”
The joints in all furniture sold at Borofka’s are screwed, glued and doweled, which amounts to a well-mended piece that, when twisted, shouldn’t bend or buckle. That’s something buyers should consider, along with drawer construction (Watch for English dovetail and five-board drawer construction.) and hardware (Consider full-extension ball-bearing glides, for ease of use and longevity.), which all can be found at Borofka’s.
Borofka gets excited when he talks about the quality finishes Borofka’s featured builders blend and use on-site. “Our small builders, they use this better finish because they know if you work with solid wood and you don’t have it well-sealed, you may as well not even work with solid wood,” he says. “It’s respecting the movement [of the wood] … When you pick up a piece of solid wood that’s sealed nicely, 10 percent of the weight is from the moisture of the wood. You have to keep that water trapped in there, and you have to keep other water out,” he says. When sealed well with modern, lasting finishes, no oil is required in cleaning, just water and a microfiber cloth.
“As the consumer, the biggest thing would just be to ask questions,” Zaske says. It’s often not enough to go by one’s eyes or even the weight. (Chipboard can be heavier than solid wood.) Zaske and Borofka suggest asking retailers: Where is the piece built? Is it imported or made in the United States? Is it built out of solid wood? What’s the finish? What’s the cleaning protocol? “You ask enough questions, and you’ll get a solid hunch on what you’re considering,” Borofka says.
Built to Last
Borofka and business partner Maynard Huth opened the first Borofka’s in 1993, full of what Borofka describes as “youthful optimism” and fresh out of the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire. And while they initially tried to source from big box companies, they found their niche in working with small-time builders from around the Midwest. “It’s quality without the stuffiness,” Borofka says, “We’re farm kids … we’re just into the quality.”
Now, some 30 years later, Borofka’s approach has yet to change. The business works closely with 20 small, local builders, with their own specialties and styles, to stock its three Metro-area showrooms (Burnsville, Minnetonka and Woodbury). About 90 percent of its offerings are built within Minnesota, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin in a direct relationship with the craftsmen.
The team at Borofka’s offers cleaning tips:
- Remove dust with a damp cloth, wiping with the wood grain.
- To hide scratches and imperfections, use a touch-up marker or a bit of shoe polish or stain.
- Avoid cleaning furniture with acid-based cleaners and petroleum waxes, oily polishes and vinegar.
- Keep all chemicals, alcohol and plastic products away from the piece to keep the lacquer intact.
- Use trivets or pot holders to protect the surface if setting hot dishes on wood tops.
- Make sure to level the furniture, as houses can settle unevenly over time and warp doors on furnishings like armoires.
- To avoid cracking and warping, keep a home’s humidity between 40–45 percent.