The Need for Orange Posted July 5, 2017 by Daniel Ostroff

For fifty five years, employees and shoppers at Toy House, a toy store in Jackson, Michigan, used five Eames fiberglass chairs every day. When the store closed in 2016, these five chairs were still in nearly new condition.


Eames designs are truly built to last. Throughout the years, every job applicant–and there were dozens, including many seasonal employees–sat in an Eames Fiberglass Side Chair for his or her interview, while the managerial staff used the Arm Chairs.

These DAX and DSS chairs are now in the Eames Collection LLC., and they will help enrich future Eames exhibitions.

When the Eames Office came across these chairs, we asked why the store had wanted them in orange. Their shop opened in 1949, and by 1962 it was time for an expansion. They ordered orange chairs from Herman Miller because the colors they adopted for the newly expanded business were orange and white.

And so there is a need for orange!

There is another Eames connection, a philosophical one, between the Jackson, Michigan Toy House and the work of Charles and Ray Eames.

Like Charles and Ray Eames, Toy House founders Phil and Esther Conley succeeded by “taking their pleasures seriously.” Their website explains:

Phil Conley served in World War II aboard the USS Arkansas Battleship. After the war and a couple unsatisfying jobs, he realized two truths…

  1. He wanted  be his own boss.
  2. He only wanted to sell things people wanted to buy (as opposed to needed to buy).

In 1949, he and his wife Esther bought a house at 407 First Street a couple blocks from the birthplace of the Republican Party, turned the main floor into selling space, the upstairs into offices and the basement into storage.

On May 23, 1949 they opened and called it Toy House.

Everyone said they were crazy. “You can’t sell toys year-round in Jackson.” But they did. In fact, they sold so many toys that the business outgrew that original house.

In the mid-1950’s they bought the two houses south of them to make room for expansion and a parking lot.

At the same time that the store was expanding, the first of many competitors opened in Jackson. Shopper’s Fair, a giant discounter that was the predecessor to big box stores like Walmart and Target showed up on the north side of town. Everyone told Conley that Shopper’s Fair would put him out of business. Shopper’s Fair only lasted a handful of years. Toy House kept growing.

In 1957 Good Housekeeping Magazine did a story on Phil & Esther Conley highlighting young entrepreneur couples who had started their own businesses.

The next major event for the store happened in 1962 when Phil & Esther bought out a neighboring baby furniture store and added baby products to the mix. Phil had originally helped Bennett’s Furniture open in 1958 but by 1962 Mr Bennett wanted out. Originally, they called the new baby business at Toy House “Li’l Folks.” Eventually we changed the name from Toy House to Toy House and Baby Too.

Read more here.

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