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Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2018 12:00 am

Look around. Look at the things around us. More than likely, they are cheap and disposable, made to be bought and worn out and bought again.

Most things, from our shoes to our cars to the cell phones in our pockets, are made to eventually break down.

And people, Scott Dilley says, are sick of it.

Dilley is the owner of Made in Monroe, a custom furniture shop run out the back of the old cotton mill on South Broad Street. He and his staff are doing their best to make things that will last.

Dilley was born in San Diego, but he’s moved eastward his whole life. He went to art school in Chicago, then moved to Atlanta when a job opened up, and then out to Monroe when his sons were born.

He’s been making furniture most his life too. He studied sculpture in college, but in his free time, he built tables, chairs and beds. All the furniture in his college apartment he made by hand.

His job in Atlanta involved making custom furniture and when he moved to Monroe, he did similar work. But in 2015, Your Pie approached him about outfitting their pizza shops with his work.

Dilley had never really mass-produced anything. But he said yes. That partnership created Made in Monroe, as Dilley formed the company to scale up his operations to meet Your Pie’s needs.

Rick Holder, who owns the mill property on Broad Street, offered the fledgling company space, and Dilley moved in with his three employees.

“We worked a lot of long hours that first year,” he said.

But the business blossomed, largely from word of mouth.

“We never say no to a job.” Dilley said. “And we never leave until the customer is happy.”

They picked up clients around the region, like making furniture for the Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, North Carolina, and helping restore Miller Theater in Augusta.

The staff has grown to 17 craftsmen, most of whom live in Monroe, Dilley said.

They moved to a bigger space in the mill, where they are now, an expansive, 30,000 square foot shop full of wood scraps, the sound of saws and, for some reason, a giant plastic dog hanging from the ceiling.

The company’s motto is “Makers of fine things,” and being a custom furniture outfit, that can take many shapes.

At the Miller Theater, it was an art-deco bar. For a construction company in Athens, it was a remake of their conference room. And for a loft in Atlanta, it was a bed with a removable table built into the base. At the push of a button, pulleys raise the bed to the ceiling to make space for the table.

Most of the materials Made in Monroe uses, especially the wood and metal, are reclaimed. It’s a look that’s become popular in recent years, but Dilley said he’s been doing stuff like it his whole life.

“I’m really into seeing old things restored and seeing life breathed into them,” he said.

The approach has worked, too. Made in Monroe is still growing. Dilley wants to expand the marketing side of the business. He wants to add another staff member.

Even still, the success of the venture surprises him.

“I’m blown away that we’ve been able to make payroll all these years,” Dilley said.

But he’s happier that he can pursue his art and be creative and give others a chance to do the same.

“Everyone can be an artist,” he said,” Everyone has that creativity in them. They just have to lose the fear.”

And that’s more important than the success of the business.

“It’s not just about the money. It’s about living a life that’s made a difference,” Dilley said.

The fine things the craftsmen are building in basement of the cotton mill are not built to be used up and thrown away. They are built to be around a while.

And, with any luck, Made in Monroe will be too.

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