BY KATIE MATTESON
The next time you travel through the area of Kinzie Avenue and West Boulevard, take a look in the display window at 3113 Kinzie Ave. and you’ll see the work of Barb and Harry Hanson, proprietors of Recovery Room Upholstery.
Sometimes you’ll see a pair of side chairs, a loveseat or couch, a set of dining room chairs or a wing-backed chair with an ottoman – all furniture brought back to life with a combination of new fabric, fine craftsmanship and TLC.
What started as a hobby became a part-time, then full-time after the couple moved to Barb’s hometown.
The couple met while they were both students at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and decided to move closer to family in Racine when their children were young.
Harry was originally from New Richmond, Wis., where he grew up with three cows, two horses, goats, rabbits, chickens and sheep.
“I was a 4-H kid and FFA member and loved working on projects with my Dad,” Harry said. “I’ve always been good with my hands and enjoy solving problems.”
After attending college as pre-veterinary medicine, Harry went to work on a large dairy farm as a herdsman.
He began tinkering with upholstery projects in the Twin Cities, but started doing more work for friends once the couple moved to Racine in 1979. He got into it more seriously after he was laid off from his job as an insulation installer and spray painter in Burlington. By the time the company called him back, he’d decided to go full time with the upholstery business.
After working out of their basement for four years, the couple leased space on Taylor Avenue and 21st Street for 24 years before buying the building on Kinzie Avenue 10 years ago.
Harry said that even after 40 years, each new project presents problems that he still enjoys solving.
In addition to her favorite jobs as mother of three and grandmother to six, Barb’s role in the business is estimating and working with customers to choose fabrics.
“We encourage everyone to take the sample books home to help them decide which fabrics to choose,” Barb said. “We deal with 10 fabric suppliers, so we have a big selection.”
She explained that people often bring in photos of the pieces they’d like done or send them by email. This gives Barb the information she needs to write an estimate.
Once customers settle on the fabric they want and agree to the price, Barb schedules a time for Harry to pick up the furniture from their homes.
Harry dedicates Saturdays to pick up and delivery with help from high schoolers from the couple’s church, Epiphany Lutheran Church.
They also employ two shop employees for cutting, sewing and wood restoration.
The average turn-around for projects is two weeks, but they typically have an eight to 10 week backlog.
Favorite chairs and family heirlooms top the list of most common projects, as well as Danish furniture and antiques.
While much of their business is residential, they also do commercial work for places like the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and Carthage College.
When asked what types of furniture types are the best candidates for recovery, the couple agreed that the “keepers” include teak, older Porter’s of Racine furniture and pieces with coil springs (rather than zig zag).
When he’s not working on furniture projects, Harry can be found creating costumes for the next competition of the Midwest Vocal Express. He’s sings lead in the 45-member barbershop chorus based in Milwaukee. He and Barb actually closed up shop in early July so he could compete with the group at the Barbershop Harmony Society’s 2019 International Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah.
And just like his aptitude and joy of working with his hands, Harry attributes the love of singing to the gentle guidance of his Dad.
For more information about Recovery Room Upholstery, call (262) 632-9035 or visit recoveryroomracine.com.