As the glory days of the waterbed dried up in the mid-’80s, Clay Folda, who had been in the waterbed sales business, was enamored by a log bed he noticed in a downtown Coeur d’Alene store.
“I saw a log bed that was made by a guy that I ended up meeting and hiring, and that was it,” he said. “That log bed was the turning point.”
After the great waterbed crash of the ‘80s (it was estimated that 1 in 4 mattresses sold was a waterbed during that period), focus was turned full-bore to log and rustic furniture and mattress sales.
“We changed the name and got into mattresses instead of waterbeds, because waterbeds started tanking. They started making pillow-top mattresses that were comfortable to combat waterbed decline,” Folda said. “We had been kicking butt and selling waterbeds to everyone, because regular beds were hard as a rock back then.”
So the waterbeds were out. Folda changed the business name, became an authorized mattress dealer for Northwest Bedding in Spokane, and started traveling the nation doing hundreds of log home shows each year.
“And that’s how we built this business,” said Folda. “Meanwhile, we opened a bigger store in Coeur d’Alene. We used to be up where Texas Roadhouse is now, and then we got a chance to buy this bigger store about 10 years ago — right when the economy crashed.”
Wild West Rustic Furniture, located off U.S. 95 at 400 W. Clayton Ave., is open seven days a week. It’s celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. It features an 18,000 square-foot sales and showroom and two onsite woodshops where custom furniture is created using a variety of woods, including reclaimed barnwood, lodgepole pine logs, knotty alder, juniper, red fir, hickory, blue pine, reclaimed redwood or anything a customer might request.
While traversing the country doing trade shows, Clay met his future bride, Carol. She had her own business crafting hide lamp shades, beadwork, and other western-themed things.
“She had this business called The Way West, and I had Wild West, so we met and fell in love on the road and then she moved out here from Connecticut,” he said.
The big move wasn’t really a culture shock for Carol. “I had a log house and I had log furniture and it was all western style, so moving here was like coming home,” she said.
Then in ’96, Folda was dealt a hard blow when he was accidentally shot while hunting.
“I died a couple times, and I almost lost everything,” he recalled. “That was the biggest challenge. I was in intensive care for three weeks; had 18 major surgeries. I did have three stores at that time, and I did end up losing one of those. Doing shows nationally and having a quarter million dollars in hospital bills pile up that I had to take care of and keeping this business running from a hospital bed was hard.”
But he made it happen. It took nothing shy of hard work and commitment, 7-day work weeks and sometimes taking off just one day a year.
These days Wild West Rustic Furniture is bursting at the seams with inventory. They’ve expanded to carry quality, real wood furniture from about 20 manufacturers from around the world, and have purchased tons of new items in the past six months. They have plenty of stuff to choose from, as manufacturers have jumped on the popular rustic trend. The Foldas no longer have to make everything themselves to ensure a good selection of quality and style in the western theme. Clay estimates about two thirds of the furniture inventory is retail items. Carol explains that they are also expanding some of the styles they carry, embracing the industrial look and offering more traditional Mexican decor items.
One thing you won’t find at Wild West is particle board.
“When you go to a furniture store these days, the furniture is disposable,” Clay said. “It’s made to last a few years. It’s made to last as long as you think you might like it. It isn’t heirloom whatsoever. Our furniture is heirloom furniture. I want our kids to fight over it when we’re gone. That’s important to us.”
With an influx of people moving to Idaho, being sick of the city life and wanting to escape the proverbial rat-race, folks often want that touch of rustic for their new home.
“I had a lady come in from Seattle. They bought a cabin over here. She had gotten on our website while in Seattle and saw our virtual store tour and came right over and bought everything to furnish the cabin,” said Carol.
Their website and the virtual tour make sales far and wide possible. Outside the store, the parking lot is a showroom of outdoor furniture and decor.
“One thing that we hear a lot of from people,” explained Folda, “is that they have been driving by this store for years and when they finally come in they are shocked because they’ve driven by and thought all we sell is outdoor furniture or just log beds. So I would like to invite everyone to take a moment and stop in here just once, and then when they come in they will come away with a new perspective.
“I mean, we have upholstered furniture, we have bedroom, living room, dining room, office, coffee and end tables, lampshades, chandeliers, rugs, throws, wall art like you can’t believe. We have so much stuff and when they come in they go ‘wow, we didn’t know you guys had this, we thought you just had outdoor furniture.”
But wait, there’s more! Poking carefully through the packed store, one will find cute taxidermy racoons in birch bark canoes, iron forged hoof picks, salt and pepper shakers made of antlers, locally made scented candles, Mexican Day of the Dead figurines, and beautiful leather and fur purses made by Carol herself.
“We hear more often than not that our place is like a museum,” she said. “They come in and they love everything they see, and it’s their new favorite place.”