In 1964, Bill Fimpler Jr. noticed that a Miracle Mile store that sold cane was up for sale. Cane, the bark from the rattan tree, is grown in Southeast Asia and is used in furniture making. Fimpler, whose father had been a furniture maker, was looking for a steady business and concluded that cane was for him. Since then, he has operated the Cane and Basket Supply Co.
He spoke to interviewer Wade Daniels
Over the centuries, there have been countless chairs whose seats or backs are woven with cane, so there is a constantly steady replacement market. I got into the sale of cane materials because it is a market that never really changes.
I like it that demand is slow and steady and my business is not entirely subject to a fad that is in one year and then finished the next. Another plus of this business is that the products don’t change, as cane is always the same. This allows me to stay in business selling exactly the same stuff that I sold when I bought this business in 1964.
I don’t mean to suggest that the use of cane doesn’t go up or down sometimes. In fact, it was fashionable in the late 1970s and some of the 1980s to incorporate cane into things like cabinets and other furniture. During those years, a lot of decorating magazines featured furniture with cane and our sales were up. But like I said, when everything settles down there is the steady replacement market; people who bought their chairs and furniture when cane was hotter will start to need replacement cane.
Business is down by about 15 percent from the 1980s when cane was more popular, and we now have five employees as opposed to seven back then. I don’t discuss revenues.
People contact us from all over the country for cane. We do about half our business from walk-ins and half from mail order because there are very few businesses like ours in the country.
The market for cane materials is very small, and there are no other businesses like the Cane and Basket Supply Co. in the area. The closest store like ours is in the San Francisco area.
I should say that every once in a while something happens that causes people to want some cane for uses other than furniture. A couple of years ago there was that incident in the news in Singapore, when the young man was punished for spraying graffiti by being caned. Cane was mentioned in the news a lot, and we had some people contact us because they were interested in getting some. I’m not sure if they just wanted to use it on themselves or what; I just sell the stuff, I don’t ask what they use it for.