Local Restoration Company Creates and Recreates Classics
Article by Nathan Oravec
"When I look at this," Curtis Kauffman says holding up a photograph of a refrigerator- late 40s model- its outer shell rusted and worn almost beyond recognition, "I see this." He flashes another photograph- the same refrigerator , to be sure- same door, same frame, same build- but seemingly having been brought back from the dead and reincarnated as a perfect, glossy, Technicolor wonder sporting a fantastic blue and red Pepsi insignia. The makeover is indeed- impressive.
The piece had been purchased by a client for his wedding reception- the refrigerator, a childhood memory that had at one time been thought lost, but was then found and brilliantly restored by Kauffman and partner Steve Pryor, owners of Memory Lane Restorations in Hagerstown.
Its showroom consists of a dazzling array of colorful pop-culture nostalgia; one-part part 50s diner, one part classic candy counter, one part bubble-gum oldies at the sock hop. It’s only one small room- but there’s a lot to take in. Memory Lane deals in a little bit of everything hailing from the "good old days." From custom 50s style refrigerators, soda machines and bars, barber chairs, candy machines, cash registers and juke boxes- to custom made cooler and Corvette couches, nostalgic signs and a full line of decals, it’s like steeping back into an alternate timeline, in which sparkling vending machines ruled the world.
This is what Pryor and Kauffman do- just the two of them- and they love it.
"It’s pretty neat to do something like this," says Pryor. "to take something that has been tarnished and beaten up- and make it look better than it did when it was new."
"Both of us have always been fascinated with the 50s era memorabilia." says Kauffman. "we started out on a small scale- selling a machine or two at a show." A machine or two would soon lead to others, with word of mouth picking up concerning Memory Lane’s pristine work. "it just snowballed—and we developed into a full time business."
According to Pryor, he and Kauffman have traveled up and down the East Coast over the years to acquire the various unique pieces they restore. (They will soon be making a trek to Ohio to check out fourteen soda machines.) Associates from other parts of the country assist in the search as well, such as a friend in Florida who hunts for intriguing candidates for Memory Lane-style restoration. The shop, adds Pryor, also receives calls every day from people who have a Coke machine or a juke box in their basement that they’ve been meaning to have mended.
"some of the pieces are really easy to come by," says Pryor. Others, "you really have to look for."
And sometimes, the best finds are not sought for, but instead -stumbled upon. Case in point: A 1958 American LaFrance Fire Engine-discovered in an abandoned warehouse in downtown Niagra Falls. A favorite piece of Kauffman’s—be came up with the idea to transform the one time fire-fighting vehicle into a full-working, novelty bar. The clever creation recently sold to a Jefferson, MD man for $10,000. "We’re lucky he (lived) that close," Says Pryor jokingly (Memory Lane makes its own delivers). "He definitely knew it was a one—of a-kind piece."
Restoration can take anywhere from six to eight weeks to complete, dependent upon the project. It is an extensive process entailing complete disassembly, sandblasting, painting, chrome work, wiring, re-wiring, and reassembly. "it’s a lot of work," says Pryor .
Kauffman and Pryor often showcase this work at local trade shows such as the GM Car Show in Carlisle and the Annapolis Boat Show, garnering a lot of patronage and praise from collectors, nostalgia-buffs, and those whose eyes are simply drawn to something out of the ordinary, and certainly special.
This is what makes memory lane stand out. Like the pieces it restores, the company is one of a kind. "Nobody in this area does what we do," says Kauffman. "it truly is a specialty business."
Because Kauffman and Pryor are always on the go, often traveling to pick up or deliver pieces, there are no set store hours for Memory Lane at this time. However, Pryor notes, he and Kauffman are generally at the shop from 8 am until 5 pm every day and the public is welcome to stop by and check out its showroom.
"Restoration is very time consuming, " says Kauffman about the laborious work schedule. "we're always on the road. We're thankful that our families are patient. They put up with a lot"
It is, without doubt, hard work agree the Memory Lane partners. - But work well worth the effort. "There's a certain [degree] of self gratification after the finished product is done."
"To see the finished product when it's complete- you can't help but get excited, " says Kauffman. "It makes you feel good to look at the project and know 'I did that'".
For more information about Memory lane Restorations, call 301-991-3532.
Curtis Kauffman and Steve Pryor wish to thank the following for their most recent success with their American LaFrance Fire Truck Project:
- Painting by Ronny Reid; R&R Auto Body
- Cabinet Building - Tim Markle
- Metal Fabrication- The Fabricator
- Graphics and Gold Leaf Trim- Sign Here