A white vinyl tufted mid-century bench is how Atomic Furnishing & Design ultimately got its start—a business owned and operated by the husband and wife team, Todd and Megan Walsh. Of course, they didn’t start out as a couple. Nor did they know going in that this mid-century bench would spark a future business.
At the time, Todd lived in a cabin in the mountains of Hendersonville, North Carolina. He worked odd-jobs, remodeling homes. He also purchased and refinished mid-century furniture that he sold on Craigslist, which is how Megan found the bench. Not only was she in love with the piece, but also the price. She couldn’t believe the seller was only asking forty dollars. She messaged him immediately. Todd let her know somebody else had already claimed the bench.
This, of course, is where their story could have ended. No future business. No future love. But something about that bench drove Megan to send a follow-up message. “Normally I never would have done that,” she says. Nevertheless, that day she did. In her message, she asked Todd to contact her if for any reason the deal fell through.
The next day, the deal did just that. “The woman never showed,” Todd says. He called her numerous times, but she didn’t answer. Eventually, the woman sent Todd an email. In it, she offered him no apology, but simply wrote, “Maybe this is the universe’s way of telling us it wasn’t meant to be.” At the time, Todd thought it a bold move to involve the universe in a Craigslist transaction. Annoyed, he called the other woman who’d expressed interest. “Can you be here in the next forty minutes?” he asked.
Megan still has no explanation. It was, after all, just a bench. But she dropped everything she was doing that day, in order to race up a mountain, forty dollars in hand.
On the drive up, Megan lost cell phone service. She could hear her mother’s disapproval; within it, her own concerns surfaced. What if this guy turned out to be a madman? He was, after all, having her meet him in the middle of nowhere. And this was Craigslist. She wasn’t oblivious to the horror stories written about transactions gone wrong. Yet she didn’t turnaround. She continued up the mountain, full of fear and doubt (but also really wanting that bench).
Her doubts, of course, went beyond the mountain. Megan had graduated from Appalachian State’s School of Interior Design, yet at the time she worked in retail and the food industry. Unlike her classmates, who left to pursue careers in big cities, Megan wanted to live and work in the city she loved, Asheville. For a time she managed to find a job in her field, working for a design company based in Fletcher. But after seven months of designing emergency rooms, she found herself uninspired and dissatisfied.
The bench she planned to buy from Todd would be sold at her booth at a local antique shop. She loved mid-century furniture and hoped her gradual collection would be the start of something bigger. “I’ve always appreciated how almost everything that was designed and constructed during that time period was built with the intention of lasting a long time. The designers from the ’50’s and ’60’s were really focusing on the form and function of each piece. I grew up in a time where furniture was replaced often because of its lack of quality.”
Todd had the bench already waiting outside. What he had planned to be a quick transaction, turned into an hour-long conversation. “She had the same appreciation for the materials and lines and the simplicity of the design of mid-century furniture,” Todd says. “She also happened to have the most mesmerizing eyes I’d ever seen.” In addition to all this, however, Megan had a boyfriend—a fact that came up in their conversation, spoiling Todd’s immediate hopes.
When the two said their goodbyes, Megan asked that Todd keep her in mind for future purchases. This too is where the story could easily have ended—in that Todd did not keep Megan in mind. He continued to post additional ads on Craigslist without ever notifying her. Megan, of course, saw the pieces going up. She couldn’t believe all the good stuff this guy was finding. Nor could she understand, after the conversation they had, why he wouldn’t drop her a line.
Megan emailed Todd an inquiry that she hoped would also serve as a reminder. Did he have anything new? Todd replied, “I don’t know, check my Craigslist.” Once more, this could have been their story’s end. But alas! Todd’s collection and their shared passion for the mid-century look kept Megan tolerant of this once friendly, now laconic Craigslist salesman.
A few weeks later, Megan returned to the mountain for a credenza, teak cabinet, and side table that she intended to use for a design project. Their conversation unfolded as it had before. This time around, however, they brought up the idea of a possible partnership. Todd didn’t have a lot of capital, but he had a good eye. He could also focus his search on Hendersonville, while Megan kept her watch on Asheville. Garage sales and Megan’s booth could be their home base.
The partnership itself began through texts. Each sent the other finds within their local area. Soon the two began searching beyond Asheville and Hendersonville. Megan found an ad for a seafoam green pullout sofa, based in Greenville. At the time, Todd was visiting Atlanta. He offered to pick it up on his drive back.
Upon his return to Asheville, Todd wore his best corduroy suit. His hair was also combed (an unusual sight—a baseball cap typically covers his head). Megan was surprised by the get-up. She, of course, had no idea of his plan—one that Todd had derived on his drive back from Greenville. After delivering the sofa, he intended to ask Megan out.
His reasoning was simple enough. Since their first meeting, Megan had made no mention of a boyfriend. Todd figured they’d either broken up, or she never had one to begin with, having said it that first time because, hey, she’d driven up a mountain to buy a bench off some random guy on Craigslist and figured at the very least, why not allude to a boyfriend as a subtle hint that others did in fact know where she had gone off to that day.
Sadly for Todd, both theories proved bust when Megan’s boyfriend emerged from inside the home to help move the couch.
Heartache accompanied Todd for weeks. Meanwhile, Megan dealt with her own uncertainties. It wasn’t that her boyfriend was a bad guy, but in Todd she saw someone with shared interests, a common goal, a similar passion and enthusiasm. Of course, they were business partners. What they had going was a good thing. Why mess it up?
But then came Charlotte. Todd’s good friend invited them to his showroom to see a sofa Megan could use for a design project. Snow fell shortly after their arrival. The two decided to return to Asheville, before it got any worse.
What should have been a two-hour drive, turned into a five-hour crawl. A white highway sprinkled with accidents. Their minds silently raced while the world itself approached them at a mere 30 mph. After weeks of agonized silence, Todd couldn’t take it anymore. To this day, Megan recalls with both fondness and amusement the intensity of his claim. “He told me I was the most amazing woman he’d ever met.”
They continued to talk their way down the highway. The initial confession turned toward the pragmatic. They were business partners, after all. Was it worth risking a good thing for a chance with the uncertain? Todd evidently thought so. “I don’t want to scare you,” he told Megan, “but I think you’re my soul mate.”
Two years later, Todd and Megan Walsh spend their days picking up furniture, photographing inventory, upholstering chairs, refinishing credenzas, and searching for new ways to make their business grow. A business that began as a concept before turning into a series of garage sales, which led to a small showroom in Woodfin before making its way onto Patton Avenue, where Atomic Furnishing & Design is located today.
If you’re in want of a mid-century loveseat, couch, table, or rug, in all likelihood, Atomic Furnishing & Design has what you need. And if, by chance, you happen to own a certain white vinyl tufted mid-century bench, Todd and Megan are ready to make you a deal.
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