From there, they began frequenting flea markets and scooped up things like metal medical dressers covered in faux wood paint. Again they restored the pieces to their original metal luster and sold them.
Then it was desks, chairs, credenzas, tables, in-and-out boxes and even school lockers. "We didn't realize at first that the office portion of it would be as important as it was," said Peggy Byrnes, sitting at a metal table in the midst of their store itself a throwback to the post-Depression era.
One of their first customers was Rock, Paper Scissors, a Web design company. Later, executives from Sony Pictures Entertainment, DreamWorks SKG and Motorola Inc. began ordering up suites of metal office furniture.
"We just opened an entertainment marketing office on Sunset Boulevard," said David Pinsky, director of entertainment marketing for Motorola. "One of the things I wanted to do was create a loft-type of experience and a very New York look."
As demand has grown, the husband-and-wife team discovered they needed to increase their supply of metal furniture. But where could they find it?
After advertising in design publications and local weeklies, information began to trickle in about metal furniture that was soon to be discarded. For example, the couple was told about 20 metal desks and tables that Caltrans was about to dump after storing them for years under the Hollywood (101) Freeway. The Byrnes got the items at bargain-basement prices.
One of their biggest hauls came after learning that tenants at the Southern Pacific Railway Building in San Francisco, constructed in 1927, were getting rid of metal furniture from 11 floors. The Byrnes spent two days communicating with walkie-talkies as they trekked through the building deciding what to buy and what to leave.
Hunting for metal furniture is a dramatic departure from the original professions chosen by the Long Island natives.
Peggy was a librarian in New York for nine years. Burke was an actor in the Big Apple who decided in 1969 that he needed to come to Hollywood to advance his career.
Neither expected the move to California to last as long as it has. But Burke was fairly successful as an actor, appearing in more than 20 feature films. Meanwhile, Peggy pursued her interest in Mexican folk art and soon was traveling to obscure villages in Mexico to buy goods to sell at her store on Beaudry Street.
By the early 1990s, she had tired of traveling, and Burke was getting out of the acting business. Their mutual love of well-designed furniture led them to their most recent endeavor, which has been quite profitable.
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