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The merchandising problems of the Hagertys'
young enterprise were gradually solved by the trial-and-error method ("Should
we emphasize New England, Early American, build-it-yourself, museum
reproductions, money savings or anybody-can-put-this-piece-together?"), and the
mailing list, aided by modest advertising in the homemaking magazines and
word-of-mouth recommendations, grew to its present total of 8,000 active
customers. While Fran and Mary, with their three office assistants, spend a
good deal of time on this bread-and-butter side of their business, their most
engaging adventures have come as they added new pieces to the Cohasset
"It would be nice to say," relates Fran,"that we had a plan in developing the line. Actually, the program just developed from one piece to another without much logic. Once we had our two ladder-back chairs, Mary and I felt we ought to add a low table--something that would serve the modern householder as a coffee table. Unfortunately, the colonials had no such piece of furniture, so we had a long and fruitless search until, quite by accident, we stumbled upon our tub table in the Governor Gore Mansion, in Waltham, Massachusetts. That was a break--we've never seen anything like it since."
The low tub table--a two-by-four-foot, inch-thick pine top on tapered, splayed legs--stood on the second-floor landing of the mansion which once served as the home of one of the early governors of Massachusetts. The table was given its name because it was used to hold tubs of water which the servants poured into a perforated pan set into the second floor; underneath the pan stood His Excellency, the Governor--soaking wet and probably quite pleased with himself.
The tub table, though simple in design, presented one new problem. Colonial craftsmen, who cut their own planks or had them cut to order, used inch-thick boards of the New England yellow or pumpkin pine in order to strengthen the table top and lessen the chances of warping. Unfortunately, modern lumber mills to not produce finished boards a full inch in thickness, so Fran had to find mills which would finish the pine to his specifications.
"It was then that I began to add to what little knowledge I already had of wood and its preparation. We now have special suppliers--Maine for our pumpkin pine, and upper New York State for our maple. And most of our wood is cured in a special way; the pine, for instance, is water-cured in log form as soon as it's cut, in order to check a fungus called blue stain.