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 October 22, 1999

Sky Chairs owners simply followed their passion

BOULDER — Like the Sky Chairs that they’ve been manufacturing for the past 22 years, the philosophy of owners Diane Washburn and Bob Anderson hangs from a single point: Follow your passions.

The two started the business under very different circumstances than those under which they now operate. Currently in efficient quarters between Eighth and Ninth streets on Pearl Street, the couple began manufacturing the chairs — based on an award-winning design developed by Washburn’s cousin — in a school bus sans the niceties of electricity and running water.

School bus living outlived its usefulness with the birth of their first child, and they moved to a house on the Hill and then to a house on Baseline Road, all the while sewing canvas and making the chairs themselves out of their garage. With increasing sales and increasing family size, however, a “real business” site was called for, and they purchased the colorful building at 828 Pearl St. that is also home to Delhi Darbar Restaurant.

The restaurant, says Diane, offers a two-way advantage: “Customers who come to eat see the chair on our porch and are intrigued, and we’re treated to wonderful aromas on a daily basis.”

It’s not hard to understand the appeal of the “school bus yellow” chair to passersby. Like a hammock or rocking chair, it provides an instant image of relaxation to the viewer. Unlike those two well-known items, however, Diane says that often people are unwilling to try it. But, she says, “sitting in it sells it.” Even people who, for whatever reason, think they don’t want to try it find themselves lulled into not wanting to get out.

No doubt a major reason, in addition to the appeal of bright colors, for the chairs’ success is the ruling principle of quality.

“Quality control is huge around here, as is customer service,” says Washburn, whose role is to oversee everything that doesn’t fall into Anderson’s job of expanding sales. She defines her job as “being like a mom.” This includes treating her growing staff like family, being concerned about their present happiness and future goals, and making sure that everyone is “well cared for.” She and Anderson, along with their two daughters and two sons, “enjoy a wonderful lifestyle,” and it’s important to her that her staff can say the same.

Customer happiness is of equal concern to Washburn and Anderson. Both feel that “the temptation to go cheaper results in a loss of control over quality and is not worth the little bit you save.” The only concession they’ve made to price is to continue to offer chairs made of domestic canvas in addition to the more expensive addition to their line: chairs made of hemp.

Hemp, the world’s strongest natural fiber, is also a “natural” choice for a chair that needs to be able to support a body’s weight when suspended from above. Use of it makes environmental sense as well, a definite concern the Sky Chair founders.

The comfort-from-above chairs are available by mail order at 828 Pearl St., Boulder 80302, by phone (303) 938-9758, or fax (303) 938-9735 and on the Web at www.skychairs.com.

BOULDER — Like the Sky Chairs that they’ve been manufacturing for the past 22 years, the philosophy of owners Diane Washburn and Bob Anderson hangs from a single point: Follow your passions.

The two started the business under very different circumstances than those under which they now operate. Currently in efficient quarters between Eighth and Ninth streets on Pearl Street, the couple began manufacturing the chairs — based on an award-winning design developed by Washburn’s cousin — in a school bus sans the niceties of electricity and running water.

School bus living outlived its usefulness with the birth of their first child,…

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