UNION TWP. — The four-peg hardwood coat rack doesn't call attention to itself. But if you know which peg to remove and how to use that peg as a magnetic key, a hidden drawer drops down, giving you quick access to whatever you've hidden there, be it a pair of mittens or a loaded 9mm semi-automatic pistol.
This item, designed and built by Dan Ingram, 39, of Perryville is one of about a dozen products offered by his company, New Jersey Concealment Furniture. His furniture is good for hiding jewelry and other valuables, too, but for the gun owner, a hidden compartment is something "between locking a gun in a safe and keeping it under your pillow," he explains.
"I love making this stuff," he says, and his stuff is sizzling on the Internet. His website has gone from 25 visitors a day to 4,000 to 5,000 a day, with 30,000 clicking in last Saturday, he reports. And the orders are starting to come in, too. His big sellers are the above-mentioned coat rack, which can be yours for $165 plus shipping, and a similar wall shelf.
But he also offers a corner hutch that starts at $1,595 in pine or $2,145 in cherry. It has three shelves for display. But for hiding things, there are three more shelves and a couple of drawers, plus two side compartments, each large enough to hold three rifles or shotguns. Shipping is extra. He's had more than 2,000 emails inquiring about this item.
Right now he works alone in the shop behind his house with occasional help from one man, but now he wants a bigger place and more help, as he works to meet the sudden demand that is depleting his inventory and increasing his workload.
Ingram grew up in Bethlehem Township and learned cabinetmaking from his father, Dean, at his shop, CWI Kitchens, which used to be in Lebanon, where Metropolitan Seafood is now. He and his wife, the former Kelly Caskey, are North Hunterdon High School alumni and they have two daughters, ages 7 and 11.
Ingram said that his home-remodeling business had continued busy well into the recession, but demand suddenly dried up about a year ago. He had made a concealment night table for his wife a few years previous, and he decided there might be a market for that kind of thing, so he started New Jersey Concealment Furniture.
Designing and making trick furniture is fun for him. He targeted gun owners
"because it's a market I'm familiar with. I'm not familiar with jewelry," he said. His gun of choice is a black-powder musket; he has been a Civil War re-enactor for the past 15 years, and is a member of the 8th Georgia Regiment, whose members are loosely clustered around Allentown, Pa. His ancestors came from Georgia and fought for the Confederacy, and his cell-phone's ring-tone is "Dixie."
Besides showing his online catalogue at njconceal.com, he brings his wares to gun shows. His displays also include a triangular wooden flag holder that survivors of veterans can use for the U.S. flags that the federal government gives them. The secret compartment in Ingram's flag holder doesn't require extra size, he said, because most flag holders "have oodles of room" and you can fit a tightly folded flag plus a hiding place in the same amount of space.
The furniture is likely to foil an intruder, but what about curious kids? Each piece comes with a lock, he says. An electronic keypad unlocks all the hidden compartments in the hutch, other pieces need a key or a keychain device like ones that unlock cars, and others require a pass in the right direction over the right spot with a strong magnet. Customers can choose the kind of lock that will satisfy the needs of their household situation. "I'd rather see their guns locked up — and they can access them — than have their kids get to it," he said.
People ask about biometric locks that read fingerprints. "They are great when they work," he said, "But if your hands are sweaty or a lady has lotion on her hands, they don't work," he said. And if you wake up with an intruder in your house, your hands are liable to sweat, he observed. Ingram prefers to rely on mechanical locks.
Because he doesn't not want to unconsciously copy other manufacturers' concealment furniture, Ingram does not research it online. But when a friend sends him a link, he might take a peek. What he's seen of the competition is encouraging, he said. Their pieces are "very square and blocky and not something you'd ordinarily see in a home."
And as the emails from all over the country and the success of his Facebook page — more than 140,000 "likes" — result in orders, Ingram's furniture will be blending unnoticed into more and more homes.
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