“Have a Patio Day” is part of Stuart Brown’s lexicon. He’s a self-proclaimed “patiologist”—a term he and the team at General Products coined to describe their expertise in all-things patio. It’s been 41 years since General Products opened its doors; the family business runs out of Richmond Hill, Ont., and Brown comes by the industry honestly. “My dad was involved in upholstery and indoor furniture, and we had a history in plastic and steel. General Products was formed when we decided to move to outdoor furniture by morphing plastics and steel into chairs, sofas and other pieces made for the backyard,” Brown says. “When we got into the industry four decades ago, the outdoor- furniture industry was very different—it was mainly glass and Werzlait (tabletops that consisted of compressed board, resin and melamine on top). There also weren’t many specialty stores that focused on full patio sets.”
In the early days of General Products, Brown had the legs of patio sets made out of steel and he imported plastic chairs from Israel. Backyards weren’t the outdoor extension of the home they are today. “In the 1970s and 1980s, people would go outside and eat at their patio table, then go back inside. There wasn’t a lot of lounging outdoors,” says Brown. “Eventually, people began spending more time in their backyards, disconnecting from work and society. Today, more people are enjoying hours outside on their sectionals or daybeds. They’re putting in outdoor fireplaces, which extends evenings and seasons. The backyard is a more inviting place than it ever has been.”
That’s why General Products uses the tagline, “Welcome To Your New Backyard.” These are now coveted spaces for sun-craved Canadians who are too often forced indoors by weather and gravitate outdoors when temperatures climb. “It’s a major change in lifestyle, and we provide everything clients need to make the most of their outdoor living spaces,” he says.
The company carries nearly a dozen impressive brands (including Sunbrella, the best water-resistant fabric available) and hundreds of pieces made from a host of weather resistant materials, including aluminum, wicker and wrought iron. Their selection of deep seating, sectionals, dining sets, gliders, ottomans, coffee tables and chaise lounges is vast—Brown says there’s truly something for every taste and style. “Mixed medium —aluminum and wicker together—are popular today, as are extension dining tables (bigger sets to accommodate larger groups), offset umbrellas that provide a ton of shade and rotate 360 degrees, and custom cushions,” Brown says. “These days all the rules have been broken. We’ve moved past the 1980s when everything was matchy-matchy. Today it’s all about the patio set, sectional, daybed, etc., that suits your family’s needs.”
Perhaps the most impressive thing about General Products, though, is the way they’ve been servicing generations of clients over their years in the business. “We’re now seeing third generations come to us. We’ve had clients whose grandparents and parents outfitted their backyards with our products, and now they’re coming in because they know our reputation, and that we offer durable, stylish pieces that will last.”
Photo courtesy of General Products