All about RetroMetalChairs.com
Serving as owner, President, CFO, accountant and web master, Kathy Torrans manages much of the company’s daily business. Born in the oilfields of West Texas, she gained extensive knowledge in warehouse and inventory control working for some of the largest oilfield drilling chemicals service companies in the world. When it came time to develop a web site, Kathy routinely puts her natural talents with all things digital to work and is responsible for the company’s “way cool” web site and its updates. Her other I T attributes include maintaining the company’s computer and software systems. She joined the company in a full time role when she and her husband moved back to his family hometown of Jefferson in 2005.
Along with her day to day duties, Kathy is involved in several community organizations serving on boards and committees such as the Jessie Allen Wise Garden Club, Pulpwood Queens, First United Methodist Church, Riverport Ambassadors and Jefferson Lions Club. She participates in annual activities for several civic and charitable groups like the Pulpwood Queens Book Club to further literacy and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, Boo Benefit which raises money for burn victims, Jefferson Lions Club Spring Car Show to benefit the Jefferson Volunteer Fire Department, Outlaw Nationals Car Show fundraiser for burn victims, spring Pilgrimage Tour of Homes and Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes both promoting the historic significance of Jefferson plus various other events throughout the year.
Kathy and her husband Skip usually contribute and volunteer together side by side. Both are involved in many of the same organizations and events. Rarely do you see one without the other. However, Kathy does take time for herself with monthly Ladies Bunco game nights!
Louis “Skip” Torrans
Serving as the company’s Vice President and Co-Owner, Louis or as he is more commonly known to family and friends as Skip, sees to the manufacturing and marketing aspects of the business. Skip’s family linage extends back several generations in Jefferson and Marion County. The company name is from his great-great-great-grandfather who established Torrans Manufacturing Company in 1850 here in Jefferson. This is his second career after having spent over twenty years in the oil and gas fields of Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana as an onsite company representative. He is responsible for design and development of the company’s popular East Texas Adirondack line of furniture.
Skip is from a long line of entrepreneurs with a strong sprit of independence. Not wanting to remain tied to the oil business and its ups and downs; Skip retired in 2000 and began building the company as an antique lumber dealer and custom furniture and cabinet maker. Through his development of the company’s East Texas Adirondack furniture line, he saw a need for the old metal lawn furniture and began offering one style of chair in only five colors. The line has since grown considerably. He is quick to point out that all Torrans products compare alongside in both quality and value to vintage examples.
When not performing his company duties, Skip is involved with several civic organizations, serving on their boards and committees. Some of these include Jefferson Tourism Board, Historic Jefferson Foundation, Jefferson Lions Club, First United Methodist Church, Boo Benefit and Riverport Ambassadors. While not an avid participant, he has been involved in Community Theater from time to time in comedic roles. Skip has a new book coming out in 2012 covering the history of the American Metal Lawn Chair. His level of knowledge in the old furniture’s antiquity has so far gone without challenge.
Torrans Manufacturing Company – Past History
Around 1849, W. P. Torrans left Mobile, Alabama for Jefferson, Texas to capitalize on a newly developed packet steamboat navigation route joining New Orleans and this new inland port. Traveling on the new route enabled people, cargo and goods access to travel times as little as seven days. Prior to its discovery, normal methods of transportation were limited to walking, horseback, wagon or stagecoach. Each was onerous, dangerous and lengthy requiring at least several weeks with constant exposure to weather, bandits, Indians and mishap. Steamboats provided much faster, secure and pleasurable travel. An investment here could return several fold.
Jefferson is named for Thomas Jefferson and is situated on the banks of Big Cypress Bayou which flows into the Caddo Lake system then to the Red River in Louisiana culminating into the Mississippi river. Torrans Manufacturing Company was formally established in 1850 as Jefferson began its rise to prominence as one of the largest inland riverports in the nation. It soon earned the name “Riverport to the Southwest” shipping and receiving thousands of tons of goods each month and transporting just as great a number of souls to their own frontier destinations. Jefferson was the prime “jumping off” point for anyone traveling west into Texas or north into Oklahoma and Arkansas.
In the early days and until about WW I, Torrans Manufacturing catered to those settling and clearing land, farming, building houses, barns and stores, shipping goods downriver plus importing products from as far away and the Orient and most of Europe. Anything that could be bought in New Orleans was in stock or just a short wait away. The company offered such things as tools, harness and lumber, hardware for every imaginable need, oils, dynamite, guns, fine china, silverware, furniture or anything not needing to be feed. Several product lines and materials such as furniture, harness, lumber and shingles bore the Torrans Manufacturing Company label. The company kept massive warehouses which dotted the town as well as a large store area with an army of clerks serving customers.
Much of the boom town exuberance ended near the turn of the twentieth century. Jefferson with its river access and steamboats shunned the many railroads laying lines from Houston, Dallas, Shreveport and beyond. A natural log jam in the Red River had been cleared allowing the waters of Big Cypress bayou and Caddo Lake to drain without abatement leaving the area with undependable navigable for much of the year. Other cities that joined in with expansion of the railroads took away many of Jefferson’s businesses and citizens. By the start of WW I the town was forced to concede that river travel had played out.
In these later years, Torrans became more of a hardware store, producing less of its own name brand products while relying on stock goods from others. Still the store provided a huge list of products and was a destination for everyone on their Saturday trips to town. This system lasted until the very early 1960’s when the stock and last remaining building was sold to a long time employee. After one hundred and ten years, Torrans Manufacturing Company and Torrans Hardware ceased business operations.
Torrans Manufacturing Company, LLC – Present History
In 1995, Louis (Skip) and Kathy Torrans reestablished the original name offering reclaimed antique pine and cypress lumber, quality handmade furniture and cabinetry. Shortly after, Skip designed his own version of an Adirondack chair dubbed the East Texas Adirondack using a typical wooden frame but incorporating seats and backs from recovered stamped metal lawn chairs and gliders. Seeing a need to provide quality vintage accurate metal lawn furniture to a ready market, his attention was directed to manufacturing reproductions of 50s style lawn chairs. Starting with a single chair available in five colors only, the line soon grew to include gliders and a larger color pallet. From here additional vintage pieces were acquired and reproduced reaching a total of six classic chairs, three gliders, three styles of tables, bar sets and two vintage style coolers and all available in a large selection of colors.
While acquiring pieces to reproduce and create tooling, Skip soon realized historical information covering the old manufacturers and their products was in very short supply. He began his own historical investigation picking up bits and pieces here and there from individuals associated in manufacturing, distributing and selling the original pieces. Finally, a slightly less than complete picture was painted of the furniture’s history and its manufacturers. Skip has begun writing a book on his explorations which covers a few well documented manufacturers plus a good bit of known history on others while some of the more indistinct ones defy full definition. Still, this research appears to be the only work done on the subject. Torrans Manufacturing Company, LLC has amassed the largest historical accounting and data base of vintage style stamped metal lawn furniture known to exist.
Today, Skip and Kathy Torrans produce vintage correct stamped steel furniture to the same and in most instances better standards than many of the past manufacturers. Their furniture is not simple retro knockoffs made to look like the antique originals but are instead faithful continuations with only minor superficial changes. Parts used on their chairs and gliders directly exchange with many vintage examples. So much so that providing hardware, frames and other parts to people restoring antique pieces is now a growing part of their business.
Torrans Manufacturing Company, LLC services traditional furniture retailers, hardware stores, garden and nursery centers, specialty merchants and a select list of online retailers. They take great pride in offering their customers only the best in vintage style lawn furniture meant to continue the tradition of informal backyard and front porch seating.