Teske keeps Walla Walla Valley covered

The owner-operator of Walla Walla Upholstery sold his building and moved to 47 S. Spokane St.



Upholsterer Terry Teske inspects a couch cushion case's seams and corners in his new shop on Spokane Street Tuesday. Teske has worked in the upholstery business since he was 17 and has owned Walla Walla Upholstery since age 21.

WALLA WALLA -- It took 40 years, but Terry Teske finally crossed back over the street.

The owner and operator of Walla Walla Upholstery recently sold his building at 229 E. Alder after four decades at the location. His shop took a short trip over the street to 47 S. Spokane St., which is where Teske got his start in the upholstery business in 1965.

Teske, then a teenager and new in town, went to work at the former Zentner's of Walla Walla Upholstery. The business had its roots as a saddle shop on Main Street, he said, but times changed and with them the business. That's been true since he started, Teske said.

"We used to do 75 percent automotive," he said -- carpets, seats covers, convertible tops and the like. "They were like a piece of furniture, old cars."

But the auto industry has moved away from building cars like furniture and today Walla Walla Upholstery works primarily with furniture, and mostly with furniture that customers are attached to.

"Fifty percent of what I'm doing belonged to grandma," Teske said. "It's really not cost-effective to re-cover something."

So how does a teenager land in the upholstery business?

"My mother was a seamstress," Teske said, and he learned to sew when he was 8. The family supplied interiors for Caveman campers, and although Teske's age made his part mostly that of "bottle washer," the seed was planted.

"I swore never to do this, but I needed a job and needed to eat when I got to Walla Walla," he said.

He studied accounting in college, but never left the upholstery business.

"As I look back, I love the fact that I've had my own business," Teske said.

"I'd have hated being an accountant. I love working with my hands."

Work goes on as usual at Teske's new/old digs, where he and 38-year employee Jerry Schulke repair, renew and renovate just about anything that has a cover to start with, from chairs to airplane interiors to a horse-drawn hearse.

"If you've set on it, I've probably worked on it," Teske said.

Whether the move means slowing down remains to be seen. Teske and his wife, Evelyne, keep busy as secretaries for Walla Walla Noon Rotary, but Teske says he likes interacting with customers at his downtown shop.

"If I really like this setup and smaller location, I'll just keep going," Teske said.


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