Signs of the Times

For all its horrors, the coronavirus pandemic forced society into necessary innovations from which many benefit. It drew new gifts out of Robert and April Chapman’s children, as they tapped into creativity handed down through multiple generations.

by Kari Apted

If not for the coronavirus pandemic, one of the coolest local “kidpreneur” businesses might not exist. When Robert and April Chapman’s four children began spending too much time connected to electronics during the COVID-19 lockdowns, their woodworking father came up with a brilliant idea to give their idle hands something better to do.

“We are a family full of ideas,” April said. “Because we’ve always homeschooled and our business stayed open, it was basically life as normal, but because life outside the house and store was shut down, we needed to come up with something to get them off those devices.”

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Robert’s idea expanded upon his own Farmhouse Signature wooden furniture line sold at the Chapman’s home furnishings store: The Furniture Loft. Incorporated in 2013, the store features a wide variety of national brands. It is also the operations center for Farmhouse Signature Home: the Chapman children’s venture into making handcrafted wooden signs, wall art and other custom home accessories. Brothers Isaiah, 14, and Brandon, 12, were not exactly sure what to think about getting into the home decor business. 

“We thought it would be hard,” Brandon said. “I thought it wouldn’t last that long. Sometimes when we come up with a new thing, we forget about it in a couple of weeks.” The Chapmans laughed at his honesty. “I thought it would be hard to do it,” Isaiah said, “but when we tried, it wasn’t as hard as we thought.” 

“We work together, play together. We are together a lot, but it allows us to foster a good foundation.”

April Chapman

The boys are in charge of cutting, assembling and painting the signs, while twin sisters Hailey and Hannah, 10, choose the colors and design the graphics. The girls enjoy the creative aspect of it the most. According to April, all four Chapman children are artistic and come by it honestly.

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Robert, a South Carolina native, moved to Georgia to major in visual communications at the Art Institute of Atlanta. Meanwhile, April moved from New York to attend Spelman College. They met at a supper club when April saw him across the bar and waved. They married in 2007. The couple somewhat stumbled into the furniture business when the boys were toddlers and April discovered she was expecting twins. Robert started a furniture delivery service for people who lacked vehicles big enough to carry large items. He often removed old furniture, some still in fair condition. 

“Being as handy as I am, I started cleaning up, repairing and painting furniture to sell on Craigslist,” Robert said. “Soon, I filled up our garage, then a warehouse, so I started specializing in selling used furniture. I got new accounts and eventually got a storefront.”

The Furniture Loft had two stores until earlier this year: one in Covington and their primary location in Conyers. The Chapmans were sad to close the Covington store but saw it as an “organic scaling back.”

“The area loved us, and if the economy hadn’t taken a nosedive and inflation hit so hard, we probably would’ve weathered the storm,” April said, “but we had to do it the Lord’s way instead of ours.”

The children never skipped a beat. April, Hailey and Hannah like looking for inspiration for their Farmhouse Signature Home sign designs. “We like family-oriented signs,” April said. “We’re Christians, so we love faith-based signs. We like quirky sayings, things that light you up or make you smile or start a conversation.” One such sign simply read, “Hey there, Sweet Cheeks.” April loved it, but Robert was less enthusiastic. “Nobody is going to buy that,” he said with a laugh. Still, they displayed it at a homeschooling expo in September, and it was quickly purchased as a gift for a retired couple in Florida. 

Former Conyers residents Neil and Ninnah Allen have been married for 58 years and were delighted to receive the sign that bore the unusual “Sweet Cheeks” nickname Neil gave Ninnah years ago. It was a bonus that Hailey and Hannah had used her favorite color: turquoise. 

Knowing the joy they bring into people’s homes is a mission that keeps the Chapman family going. The children also like earning their own income. When a sign sells, the parents divide the money equally into the kids’ individual accounts, encouraging them to save and donate a percentage of their earnings. 

“We work together, play together. We are together a lot,” said April, “but it allows us to foster a good foundation. Just because we homeschool, I don’t want people to think our kids are in a bubble. We don’t shelter them, but we prepare them for the way the world works. We equip them to be productive citizens and stand up for their beliefs, even when it’s hard. They aren’t looking for their identity out there. They get their affirmation from us.” 

Click here to read more stories by Kari Apted.

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