John, Laura and Ginger LeDoux, Lancaster, Minn., along with a couple of their pets, sit on an 1880’s German couch, which John and Ginger have reupholstered. (Enterprise Photo by Linda Andersen)
By Linda Andersen
Do you know who is responsible for the attractive booths and other upholstery at the Caribou Grill in Hallock, Nordhem in Karlstad, and the Frog Pond in Halma? The skilled husband and wife team of John and Ginger LeDoux of rural Lancaster can take the credit. They’ve been giving a lift to old wooden and upholstered furniture for the past 40 years. Sometimes they create brand new items. According to John, they’ve spruced up folks’ furniture from Warroad to Thief River Falls to Fargo to Cavalier and Pembina. They also padded the seats at the gyms in the schools at Lancaster and Pembina.
The work really started for John in 1976 when his friend Charles Woodrow asked him to join him in an upholstery business in John’s hometown of Red Lake Falls. They rented an old Standard Station, named it Ye Old Upholstery Shop, and operated it for about one and one-half years.
John, however, soon found the perfect new business partner. “She loves sewing,” he said of his wife, Ginger (Masloski), whom he married in 1977. They moved to her home place near Lancaster and started their upholstery business in 1978. The front porch of their house, an old farm shop, and a trailer home all served as a shop for the business at one time or another until 1985 when they added a shop onto their house.
Besides refinishing wood furniture, they reupholster many items, such as couches, chairs, automobiles, boats, recreational vehicles ATVs, golf carts, aircraft, snowmobiles, and motorcycles. Ginger does all the sewing, but says she calls on John “when I need more muscle power.” John also fixes broken parts on items. He showed an old wooden chair that he was about to fit with a wood piece for the back. He also redoes springs in furniture.
A completed cushion for an ottoman lay on a table in the shop. “I wanted an ottoman and didn’t want to pay the price and wanted it a specific size,” explained Laura LeDoux, John and Ginger’s daughter who was visiting from Fargo. She said her brother, Chris, had made the frame for her parents to upholster. (John and Ginger have three children – Renee (Dan) Jaszczak, Laura, and Chris).
The LeDouxs noted that the fabric that they use to cover their pieces cost about eight dollars per yard in 1976. Today it costs at least $30 a yard. They have books of sample fabric available in their shop.
When reupholstering an item, they cover the frame with foam, then with Dacron, and finally with fabric.
Ginger mentioned some particularly interesting projects she has completed. Her sister’s boyfriend returned from a hunting trip with hides from a zebra and a springbok. She recovered a rocker and a footstool with the zebra hide and made purses from the springbok hide.
“There’s nothing new in this house,” stated Ginger as a tour of the house revealed a number of treasures that John and Ginger have restored.
John pointed out a telephone and a floor lamp which he said were “probably from the 1930’s.” An 1880’s German couch and a 1920’s couch grace the living room.
John and Ginger often work on their projects in the evenings and on weekends. Although John is retired, Ginger works full-time at Kittson Memorial Hospital in Hallock.
John offered several tips on keeping upholstered items in good condition:
• Keep in mind that cats, dogs, mice, water, the sun, and children can all do damage to upholstered items.
• Keep outside items under a tarp, in the shade or in a shed place.
• Put a garbage bag over the seats of garden tractors.
• Use protective sprays that block ultraviolet rays.
John also offered some advice on the furniture that is best to refinish. “Anything that’s pre-seventies or eighties or high quality is sturdier,” he said.
John and Ginger agree that what they enjoy most about their work is “taking something that’s old and making it look like new.”
Hate to part with Grandma’s old, disheveled chair or the faded couch from your honeymoon years? Need a use for an exotic hide from a far away hunting trip? John and Ginger are ready to help!
(Left) John pointed out a telephone which he said was “probably from the 1930’s.” (Right) Laura LeDoux and her parents, Ginger and John, show off the ottoman cushion they created to fit a frame built by Laura’s brother Chris. (Enterprise Photo by Linda Andersen)