Origins of Galloway's Furniture
Galloway's was the eponymous brainchild of owner, designer and personality Ralph Galloway. A native of North Carolina, Galloway pursued his passion for furniture and modern design after the Second World War by moving his young family down to the Tampa Bay area on Florida's West Coast.
Enthusiastic about new attitudes and ideas about design for living, he started out as a one-man upholstery business in around 1944. He soon saw opportunity knocking when knock-down (flat-pack) Danish furniture became popular and easy to import from Denmark. By sewing the slip-in cushions himself, he was able to make a tidy profit when he sold them on.
Source: The Orlando Sentinel
(Orlando, Florida) · Sun, May 12, 1957
The Modern Look of Galloway's Furniture
Forever the business man, in time he established multiple retail outlets along Florida's West Coast (and Orlando) with a reputation for stocking the most modern new furniture designs from around the country and abroad. Sarasota's young star architects, such as Paul Rudolph, sought out his stores to find the perfect modern furnishings for their new, daring designs.
Galloway's Furniture Shorwoom
The relationship with architects was symbiotic, with Galloway employing modernists Mark Hampton and Victor Lundy to design stores in Tampa and Sarasota, respectively. Hampton's sleek modernist glass box was eye catching but Lundy's creation was awe-inspiring. Utilizing his favored curved beams fanned outwards like a palm tree, the round glass structure caused a sensation. Both showrooms won architectural awards, Hampton's in 1958 and Lundy's in 1960.
Source: Tampa Times Feb. 27 1958
Ralph Galloway: Regional Design Icon
Ralph Galloway was a canny businessman with a passion for great design and he cultivated an image as the public face of the company and a design aficionado. The photo below is one of 11 articles he wrote that appeared in the Tampa Tribune covering various elements of style, design and business.
Source: Tampa Bay Times· Sun, Oct 25, 1959
He even managed to spin Galloway's factory burning down in 1958, taking out a full page to demonstrate Galloway's resilience:
Mid-Century Furniture Designed for Florida
Once Galloway's reputation as a retailer had become established, Ralph Galloway began to explore his passion for producing original furniture design. He used eye catching showrooms and famous designer pieces to get people in the store and then presented Galloway's designs side by side.
Several designs were very successful and as they were made locally in Galloway's factory, they were far more affordable. Galloway emphasized that his store had the only line of modern furniture designed for Florida's lifestyle, calling them designs for 'Florida Living and Florida Homes'.
Apart from the Malabar/800 Lounge chair and Ottoman discussed in our previous post, Galloway's produced many original designs in the Galloway's factory, capitalizing on the trend for modern furniture while making it accessible at a lower price point.
Source: Tampa Tribune Aug 17 1958
The Pedestal Chair by Galloway's
Another popular design was the Eames/Saarinen-style hybrid named the Pedestal Chair. Here it is featured in a Galloway's showroom, the Tampa one designed by Mark Hampton. If you look carefully, in the background you'll see the Malabar/800 chair and ottoman.
Mel Abitz (co-designer of the chair with Ralph Galloway) described how the pedestal chair is actually two pedestal bases mounted end to end and bolted together. The bases were manufactured up north and shipped down to be combined with molded plywood seat parts.
Other popular Galloway designs are shown in the gallery below:
Galloway's Furniture: Becoming a Household Name
Ralph Galloway was a serious marketer, partnering with builders to furnish or stage their newest homes, putting their stamp on what it meant to have the Modern Florida 'look'.
Source: Tampa Times Aug 26 1959
Source Tampa Tribune Aug 23 1959
Source: Tampa Tribune June 10 1956
A Changing Business Model
At one time, Galloway's had 7 retail furniture stores along Florida's Western Coast and Orlando. As sales trends changed, certain stores were closed and the company began to specialize on the products that sold best.
Rival furniture retailer Kane's took out a number of adverts showing how they bought out the entire stock of Galloway's fantastic Sarasota showroom after it closed in July 1964.
Source: Orlando Sentinel: July 4 1964
In 1967, Ralph announced a shift to focus one category of furniture: sleeper beds and 'studio bed ensembles'.
In order to expand his business at his desired rate, Ralph Galloway decided to close many of his retail stores and move into wholesale distribution.
Ralph Galloway's Home and Furnishings
Ralph Galloway's life was modern design. He even conceived a home design for his family and furnished it with Galloway's furniture. You can see the Malabar chair (center) and a pair of Outrigger chairs (at right).
It was featured in The Tampa Times' Living Section 27 May 1966:
Color photos from a 2017 Zillow listing can be seen here.
Ralph Galloway passed away in 2002.
If you haven't checked out our previous posts about Galloway's, catch up now:
Special thanks to John Galloway (Ralph's son) for his generosity - sharing detailed responses to my very specific questions and connecting me with Mel Abitz.
Huge thanks to Mel Abitz for sharing his experience of working at Galloway's.
Be sure to check out Amanda Brown's fantastic blog, Tampania, for additional information about Galloway's and Tampa-area design and architecture.