Originally from a small Polish-border town in Lithuania, the Danto family immigrated to the United States in the 1920s and settled in Detroit. Later, in the early 1940s, Julius Danto broke away from a family business on Detroit’s eastside to open Danto Furniture on West Vernor Highway. This began what has become a deep connection between the Danto family and Southwest Detroit. Today, Julius’s son Charles, Charles’s son Irwin, and Irwin’s daughter Ashley proudly serve thousands of customers at their current location on 7701 West Vernor Highway. (Fun fact: They also have a pop-up kiosk at Laurel Park Mall managed by Debra Rinna. They will be opening a Midtown location in Spring 2016.
Before moving to their present-day location, Danto Furniture was located further west on West Vernor Highway. Then, approximately 20 years ago, their business had a devastating setback when the steam heat system caused terrible building fire. In a recent interview with Charles Danto, he told us, “This was the busiest day of the year… we had to get everyone out of the store.” The community was also impacted by this fire. “Everyone was sad when we had the fire. They thought we would have to go out of business and they didn’t want us to leave.”
The fire was a big loss for the Danto family, but despite the odds they continued to move forward with the next generation of their business. They bought 7701 West Vernor from the Raimi family, the same family of well-known Spiderman Trilogy Director, Sam Raimi. Today Danto Furniture continues to serve the community through their retail business and as a major employer in Southwest Detroit. Currently, they have about 18 employees, many of whom are from the local community, and over the years they have served the many waves of immigrants who have called Southwest Detroit home over the years, including those from Hungary, Lithuania, Italy, Lebanon, Albania, Iraq, Mexico, and Yemen.
It is clear that those at Danto Furniture stay in touch with the personal lives of their clients as well. Charles mentions clients whose children became doctors, executives at GM, and even a part of President Obama’s security team. Many of these long-time customers keep coming back generations after generation to do business with Danto Furniture. “Young guys would come to Detroit and we would give them a bed on credit because their factory job didn’t pay enough to purchase outright. Later those same guys would bring their brothers and eventually families,” says Charles. “Now we have the grandchildren of former clients still buying furniture from us.”
Charles has seen a lot of changes in the area over the years. Despite challenges facing the community, he says that his family wants to “stay here and keep contributing” through their business. “We are still here. We are the survivors of Detroit.” Charles really credits ongoing immigration, vibrant cultural roots, and deep community relationships for the neighborhood stability experienced here. “As business owners, our family could have pulled out 30 years ago, but that’s Southwest Detroit for you. It is a very tight-knit community and that’s why we are here.”
Danto Furniture continues to give back to the community every year by supporting the Cinco de Mayo parade, contributing to community safety by securing vacant homes, and throwing one of the community’s most anticipated Christmas celebrations. Danto Furniture Company is again hosting their "Annual Merry Christmas with Santa" event throughout December and all are welcome. “We enjoy helping formalize these special families moments with Santa. Mr. and Mrs. Claus are well known visitors from the North Pole to our community in Southwest Detroit,” says Irwin Danto, 3rd Generation Owner and Manager of Danto Furniture.
The entire store is decorated for the "Annual Merry Christmas with Santa" event which is a partnership with Southwest Detroit Improvement Association this year. Visitors enjoy popcorn, lemonade, cookies, candy, and chips. Salsa and chips are provided by E&L Supermercado. Last year’s event served over 400 families because of this high demand and this year, over 300 families have already participated! New this year is 'social media sharing’, customers will get a text with their photos and can share it right to facebook, twitter, and instagram.
The "Annual Merry Christmas with Santa" event is a free event that includes a conversation with Santa and a free 4x6” print photos. Additional prints in larger sizes available for $1, $2, or $3. Visitors select photos to be printed. Meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus, free refreshments, free print photos on site with large prints available, immediate photo sharing on social media, all taking place at Danto Furniture, 7701 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit, MI, 48209 12:00 pm-5:00 pm, December 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20. Bring the whole family!