Creating and making things was avocation, a hobby throughout Joseph Tuohy’s early life. But at age 42, with a wife, 13 children and two more to follow, he quit the security of his job to do what he had always wanted. He set out to make furniture and did so under the only roof he had –his home. He had no customers and no income, only risk and uncertainty, and an abundance of passion.
The 1950’s was a period of growth and expansion nationwide. Joseph Tuohy began making period reproductions for clients eager to obtain well-crafted products. Religious institutions were part of this post-war building boom and needed one-off pieces for their sanctuaries. Unrelenting sawdust proved too much for his wife and the small enterprise moved into an abandoned blacksmith’s shop in Chatfield, Minnesota. The financial demands of a large family caused him to switch to the production of pews, a higher volume of output. This marked the transformation from entrepreneurship to production. The business grew, largely due to the use of good materials and a strict attention to detail. In a handful of years the small firm had become a major player in congregational seating of all types throughout the northern states. The early 1960’s brought a major collaboration with internationally renowned architect Marcel Breuer. This Hungarian-born giant of Bauhaus architecture had received a commission for a Benedictine abbey in central Minnesota. Joseph Tuohy was selected to provide all of the wood furnishings. It was a lifetime opportunity–a dream come true.