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Victoria In Motion

Victoria In Motion, Spring 2010

The thin layers of saw dust cover the wood, but to the imaginative eye, all there is to offer under the dust can be seen.

“This is really the ’man’ shop,” says David Clifton, owner and artisan of Texana Furniture, referring to his shop in downtown Victoria. There is another Texana Furniture shop in downtown Goliad, the “gallery,” where the wood is polished and prominently displayed between works of art. No matter which shop you visit, you will see both places have a sense of grace and beauty that can only come from the hands of a true craftsman.

It is the paradox between these two shops that begins this story — how right here in Victoria a man lost everything, found God, and built his dream to become a famous furniture maker.

“In 1984 I lost everything. I was involved in real estate properties, but when the oil crash came, I mean…I lost everything. But it was in losing everything that I was found.”

With the oil crash came the fall of real estate, and David along with his wife, Charlene, and their five children found themselves without any money and with no hope. David remembers, “Charlene, she’s always been such a beautiful spiritual woman. She told me ’David, we really need to go to church.’ I wasn’t ready to listen that day. I said ’No Charlene, we need $72,000 to get out of this mess.’ ”

“It was two weeks to the day after that when I was just so lost and in despair that I had decided to go. You know, in the two weeks that Charlene had asked me to go to church with her, those were the worst two weeks I had ever had in my life. But the day I went, that’s the day I was changed forever.”

“I didn’t have a vision until after I was saved. God told me to make furniture and that’s exactly what I did. The truth is, when I started making furniture; I was digging in garbage cans looking for wood, doing all that I could to find where I needed to be for Him.”

David then began building furniture he felt exemplifies “truth and value.”

“That’s what I want my pieces to reflect—truth and value. I really believe that Jesus is the real reason why people are moved by my furniture.”

Greatly influenced by early German American furniture makers, David has an extensive knowledge of the history of furniture, an education he “picked up” along the way as he was building his pieces and building his business.

As a boy, he worked for his family at Dick’s Food Store. The family, originally from San Antonio, owned West Coast Produce and then Dick’s Food Store in Victoria. He worked in the “bottle house” at Dick’s, where back in those days the bottles for milk and coke had to be separated. He was fairly young to be working there by today’s standards, but he wanted to be near his father and uncles, whom he admired. He made 50 cents a day.

He was able to make enough money to buy his first car and his first surfboard at fifteen. His father told David, “Son, I am going to give you a little rope, but don’t go hanging yourself.”

“One day, my dad and I were taking a walk through an old neighborhood in San Antonio where they were tearing the way for the Hemisphere Plaza. We were in a very old section of the neighborhood, surrounded by houses built in the 1840s, and in those old homes is where I first saw what would become my signature emblem for Texana Furniture, these rosettes with the star’s emblem embossed on the mantles over the fireplaces.”

David exhibits truthfulness in what and how he says things. “I don’t believe in masks,” he says. At 6 feet 7 inches he isn’t hiding from anyone either. “I am the least of the least, I know who I am without Christ, and I know where I came from.”

“The Huck Welder house was the only structure I was able to keep during the 1984 real estate crash. There is so much spiritual symbolism in having started Texana Furniture in the back room of that house. May Welder started the first credit bureau in Victoria in that room, and that’s where Texana Furniture began too.”

“There were so many people who reached out to help us get started. Brady, Colin, and Everett Morrit and Dan Goyen, Sr.—they helped us, because we didn’t have anything; no money, I mean nothing, but you know those were the best times because I couldn’t rely on myself. But coming out of that, my flesh knows that it’s the best place to be. Because coming to prosperity opens the doors to so many choices.”

“To be in a community, you have to give back. You can’t be a taker and prosper.”

David has built custom furniture pieces for just about everyone. “It’s just reputation; my clientele are from all walks of life—city workers, school teachers, billionaires.” Some of his work is featured at the Alamo and throughout businesses here in Victoria. In the world of mail order catalog furniture and next day delivery, David’s gift for transferring a conceptual drawing into a legacy piece of furniture is unsurpassed.

“I am always trying to get better as a person, how I react to people, our product. Something that I’ve always remembered my coach, Bill McDonald, saying; it really stuck out in my mind. He said, ’Losing builds character; and boys, we’ve got enough character.’ ”

“I pray for restoration every day.”

Whether you visit the “man” store in downtown Victoria or “the gallery” in downtown Goliad, you will find the same story of how losing it all means getting everything in return.

Photos of Texana Furniture
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