Village of Sussex — A unique retail showroom and gallery recently opened in the storefront of the Color Ink plant on Highway 164 north of Silver Spring Road.
On one side, a fine art gallery displays some of the best of the original art work of Jim Meissner, founder of Color Ink, who has honed his skills in using rich warm colors to portray lush landscapes, portraits and architectural subjects. Original art work in the gallery ranges in price from $300 to $3,000.
On the opposite side of the gallery is a showroom displaying Fun Deco furniture, brightly painted, carefully crafted, paperboard furniture bearing the logos and colors of college and university teams and major league baseball teams.
These unique and exclusive creations of cocktail tables, service bars, stadium chairs, desks, night stands and storage cubes are designed for college dorm rooms, tailgate parties and basement recreation areas.
Prices ranges from $12 for a mini table, clock or storage cube to $150 for the paper board replica of a stadium seat.
And, sitting in the midst of this eclectic mix of oil painting and paper board furniture is a life-size, polystyrene plastic model of the U.S. Olympic bobsled.
Todd Meissner, company president and son of Jim Meissner, acknowledges that the showroom and gallery has become — perhaps somewhat inadvertently — symbolic of the company's history, creativity, and evolution from a late 20th century printing and publishing plant to a full service 21st century communication company providing a wide range of marketing and printing services.
The Fun Deco furniture company is a way to use Color Ink's creative resources and huge printing equipment to generate new sources of revenue at a time when the electronic and digital era is reducing the demand for print, according to Meissner.
The furniture is created by sandwiching a specially designed honeycomb shaped cardboard center between two strips of paperboard. The paperboard slabs are then cut into pieces that can be fitted together — without using tools — to create the various furniture items such as desks, coffee tables and the stadium chairs.
Color Ink has acquired licensing privileges from 90 colleges and 30 Major League Baseball franchises.
The furniture is economical and durable for use in a college dorm, basement rec room or at a tailgate party, said Meissner.
"How long it will last depends upon how and where you use it. It could last six months or it could last six years," he said.
However, Fun Deco does offer its "Free Forever" exchange meaning that if a consumer purchases one of the products and later wants to replace it because of wear and tear, the replacement is free if the consumer ships the used product back to the company.
Sales of the furniture are "going slow but going well," said Meissner.
Although a vast majority of Fun Deco sales come from the Internet, company executives thought they should have some kind of showroom, and there happened to be space available on the first floor of one of the company's buildings on Highway 164.
At about the same time, company officials were pondering what to do with a large inventory of Jim Meissner's art work. Although he remains active with the company, Meissner lives in Arizona.
The Meissner family has lived in the towns of Merton and Lisbon for four generations, and company officials believed that Lake Country residents might like an opportunity to see, perhaps even purchase, some of Jim Meissner's art work.
They decided there was enough vacant space in the building along Highway 164 to create both a furniture show room and an art gallery.
Life-sized bobsled on display
The Olympic bobsled is on display with the art work and the furniture partly because of a Google search by a Philadelphia advertising agency.
The agency represents Century 21 Real Estate which sponsors the U.S. Olympic Bobsledding team. The agency was looking for someone who could build for them lightweight, durable and economical life-size models of the bobsleds that could be shipped around the country and put on display at various sponsorship events.
According to Meissner, an agency account representative Googled "card board furniture" and Fun Deco's name appeared in the search.
Color Ink used large sheets of polystyrene plastic to create the sleds. The polystyrene sheets were cut into pieces that could be assembled into the shape of the sled. The Century 21 and U.S. Olympic logos could be printed on the sheets with the company's large presses.
Color Ink made six of the sleds. Four of them were used to fulfill the advertising company's order. Color Ink kept the other two, with one of them on display at the art gallery and furniture showroom.
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