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57th Street Design Started By Son In Father's 57th Street Bookcase Workshop

By Sam Cholke | April 5, 2017 5:47am
 Sam Devenport is following in the footsteps of his father, Arthur, and is starting his own furniture company.
57th Street Design
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HYDE PARK — Sam Devenport is carrying on his father’s love of woodworking and is finding fans of his burgeoning furniture company far beyond his native Hyde Park.

A little less than a year ago, Devenport launched 57th Street Design in the same Pilsen woodshop where his father, Arthur “Chip” Devenport, runs 57th Street Bookcase, the company that has held up 57th Street Books’ volumes and thousands of others in living rooms around Hyde Park since the mid-‘70s.

“I spent a lot of summers doing basic woodwork growing up in my dad’s workshop,” Devenport said.

The designs he’s come up with for his own line of furniture carry on a lot of the characteristics of his father’s. The work is simple and modern, easy to take care of and doesn’t cut any corners on materials.

Devenport said he launched the company after noticing that companies like Design Within Reach and other mid-level furniture makers were moving to cheaper materials to cut costs. He said it’s made room for smaller shops to build a clientele with people who want something that’s going to last a very long time, but can’t afford to commission a piece of furniture from an artisan builder.

“Interior designer have been quick to recognize that,” Devenport said. “California has been a big market for us.”

The forde dresser has proven to be one of the burgeoning furniture company's most popular designs. [Courtesy of 57th Street Design]

His father said he never pushed his son to follow in his footsteps after studying classics at the University of Chicago and is still surprised he joined the family business that started in a garage off 57th Street to build the bookcases for 57th Street Books.

“I knew he was interested in law so I thought he might go to law school, but we never discussed it,” Arthur Devenport said.

He said he admires his son’s designs and is pleasantly surprised that he is more business minded than he was with 57th Street Bookcase.

“It’s not in me, I came from a building and teaching background and I reluctantly started a business,” Arthur Devenport said.

He said as his son’s business takes off, he’s thinking about slowing down. He said he’s debating what to do with the shop he’s run in Pilsen since 1995 after his son grows to the point he needs a bigger workshop next year.

Sam Devenport’s ambitions seem likely to carry him into his own workshop soon, if not in the next year.

He’s working with the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center to make sure the business stays sustainable as it grows.

“Eventually, we would like to have showrooms in select cities,” Sam Devenport said.

He said he’s likely not coming back to Hyde Park to build a bigger workshop, but said he’s committed to growing the business on the South Side.

57th Street Design has opened a showroom at 629 W. Cermak Road adjacent to its workshop. [Courtesy of 57th Street Design]