After three generations in one of the most historic buildings in the neighborhood, the Swan family has grown accustomed to the reaction people have when they walk into their furniture store - especially the cathedral room.
"Everybody just goes goofy when they see that room. It looks like a church," said Scott Swan, owner of Swan Furniture & Interiors.
In fact, the building was a chapel for a funeral parlor in the mid-1800s.
By the time Swan's grandfather, William Taft Swan, took it over in 1948, the building had been home to a beauty shop. Another part of it was a living space, where Swan's father, Peter William Swan, grew up.
The cathedral room even had an incarnation as a fish market and deli.
When the Swans moved in, the room's vaulted ceilings, distinctive beams and stained glass windows proved the perfect backdrop for their high-end furniture.
"You walk in, you just feel the history," said Sarah Steltenpohl, a designer who has been with the Swans since 1989.
When Swan's father died at age 48, his mother took over the business. Almost 10 years later, in 1997, Swan took over - embracing not only the roles of builder and deliveryman, but also business manager.
"We don't carry any junk in here," Swan said. "And by junk I mean cheap Chinese furniture. The stuff we have is expensive. It's the kind of thing you'll be able to hand down to your children and their children."
"My mother was bringing me here when I was 5, saying, 'Don't touch that!' " Steltenpohl said. Today "we are dealing with the children of the people that I used to bill years ago."
And Steltenpohl thinks she knows why.
"We try to be everything that everyone else isn't," Steltenpohl said. "We don't like to say, 'No.' If you can imagine it, we will find a way."
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JUST THE FACTS
BUSINESS: Swan Furniture & Interiors
ADDRESS: 1348 N. Wauwatosa Ave.
PHONE: (414) 476-6522
OWNER: Scott Swan
TYPE OF BUSINESS: furniture, home furnishings and interior design
PEARLS OF WISDOM: "We try to be everything that everyone else isn't."
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