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Fourth generation upholsterer continues tradition
It is a dying art, but one Orland family continues to upholster furniture and vehicles even in a poor economy.
Doris Vickers and her grandson, Tony Medina, are continuing the tradition started by her parents 62 years ago.
Jim and Audrey Cleveland began the business back in 1951 — the year Doris was born.
Their shop moved to different locations between Eighth and Sixth streets the whole time until Vickers moved it out into the country two years ago.
She said it was at Eighth and Trinity streets from 1970 — 2010 when she decided to bring the shop out to County Road 10.5 following her parents' deaths.
Vickers was raised in the business doing pick ups, deliveries and furniture stripping in high school and moving into it from there, she said.
Today, she and Medina represent four generations in the family business, with Medina's unborn baby likely to be the fifth generation. His wife, Jeniece, also helps with some projects.
Her son, Jesse Allard, 34, also works in the shop from time to time, but now has a job in a different field, she said.
Summer has brought an influx of boats and autos whose owners want new seats, they said.
"When times are bad, we do more boats and cars," Vickers said. "When times are good, we do more antiques and furniture."
Medina, 21, decided to go into upholstery full time after living in Yuba City and being unsuccessful in finding a job there.
"I thought, why go find a job in a world where there's no jobs when you have a family business," he said Monday.
He has been working at the shop since January and enjoys it, Medina said.
Re-doing couches and chairs are easy for him, he said, but boats represent a new learning curve.
Vickers mentioned she received a national award for upholstering the seats of her husband's boat, she said.
That also brought in more business from boat owners, Medina said, although he cannot understand why they don't get the work done in the winter when the boats are not being used.
Now that a number of long-time upholsters have died in the North State, there are few shops around.
"I get a lot of calls from Red Bluff," Vickers said. "Nobody does furniture up there."
She said she is willing to give tips to do-it-yourself types.
One is to buy good foam, Vickers said, which normally is not available in big-box stores.
Another is not to start with a velvet fabric as that can be difficult to use — the same is true of large patterns or stripes, she said.
The shop is housed in a large shop building that has been remodeled into a home with an atrium and second story.
Vickers said, when she first moved out there a lot of people came with small projects like fixing leashes and halters which amazed her - until people told they came out to see her house.
The atrium includes a koi pond, century old palm tree and other exotic plants - forming a peaceful setting to escape to after a busy day.
Other projects include doing dog vests for service animals and assisting Vickers' husband, Bob, with his car restoration.
The shop has a lot of fabrics, foam and materials to use including vinyls backed by re-cycled leather and some fabric now being made in the U.S. again, Vickers said. "That tickles us."
She said her father thought one of his two sons would take over and never expected it to be the daughter.
Vickers thought she might have to close the business, too, but now her grandson is on board - it can continue, she said.
Cleveland's Upholstery is at 6235 County Road 10.5 off County Road FF.