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He's strictly 'hey-wake'

April 03, 2000|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

It was 1986, while he and his then-girlfriend Becky were visiting his sister in Alexandria, Va.

The couple wandered into an art deco shop and Chris Parody was struck by love at first site.

"I spotted this bedroom suite in the back and that was it," said Parody, 42, of Hagerstown, who found Becky was also drawn to the distinctive, retro Heywood-Wakefield furniture commonly referred to as '50s blonde.

Parody didn't stop with the bedroom set, in one of the Massachusetts furniture maker's more popular '50 blonde styles, Sculptura.

He began collecting other Heywood-Wakefield furniture, buying pieces from the same guy and trading some pieces back for different ones.

After he traded back what turned out to be a rarer piece to get a dining room table and chairs, he let the collection slide for several years.

But his passion for Heywood-Wakefield's funky maple and birch furniture didn't wane.

After seeing it being hawked all over the Internet, he started collecting it again in the late 1990s with the plan of amassing a large enough inventory to launch a respectable Web business of his own.

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"I just got the wild hair and started going to town trying to find it everywhere," he said.

Parody said Becky, now his wife, thought he was crazy as she watched his collection fill the storage places at their Northern Avenue home.

But she's started to relax now that his business, Strictly hey-wake, is taking off, he said.

Planning to start the Web-based business, he got a booth at Beaver Creek Antiques in late 1998 to build exposure.

He worked about a month on the Web site, which went up the last day of 1998, he said.

Parody said he first saw Strictly hey-wake as a way to keep working in the wintertime, when business for his home improvement company falls off.

It's gotten to the point where it could be a full-time business if he buckled down and devoted more hours to refinishing the pieces he has in stock, he said.

He's very particular with the refinishing and has his own finishes to perfectly match Heywood-Wakefield's popular champagne and wheat finishes, he said.

Parody said he'd like to hire someone to help with the refinishing, but he can't find anyone qualified and whom he can count on.

As a one-man operation, he has to spend a lot of time on the road, traveling to auctions and to see pieces being offered for sale, he said.

He has built an inventory of more than 200 pieces, occupying the storeroom next to his workshop, his basement, his spare bedroom and parts of his mother-in-law's house.

But he's still in the market for more.

Buying pieces at a reasonable price can be difficult because many owners, especially those who inherited the furniture, get an inflated idea of prices by looking at dealers' selling prices, he said.

Heywood-Wakefield made numerous pieces in what's considered the '50s blonde style and some are much more desirable and rarer - and thus more valuable - than others, Parody said.

Condition and whether or not the piece needs refinishing are also important in determining value, he said.

The furniture sells for much higher prices in certain areas, such as New York, Miami and Los Angeles, Parody said.

If he pays too much for a piece, he won't be able to factor in his costs and a little profit and afford to resell it at a reasonable price, he said.

"As corny as this sounds, I want to put it in the collector's home," Parody said.

Parody's Web site is at www.strictlyheywake.com.

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