Custom bean bag chairs help disabled adults

Custom bean bag chairs help disabled adults

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TEMPE, Ariz. -

If you grew up in the '70s or even the '90s, chances are you owned a bean bag chair.

One man in the valley still makes these chairs and is customizing them to help people with disabilities.

There's a reason Russ Antkowiak calls his Tempe store "The Pillow Shop."

He sells every type of pillow you can imagine.  Pillows for pets, lap cushions for cradling babies, decorator pillows and his most popular cushy product, the bean bag chair.

"I've had people that were 12 years old, had it through junior high, high school, college, ASU, marriage, divorce, kids have it now and the chair is still alive," said Antkowiak.

Russ prides himself on the durability of his products.  He makes each of his bean bag chairs with machine washable fabric used to upholster car seats.

Stitching each seam twice to make sure it won't bust open.

Whatever type of cushion or bean bag you might need, Russ can custom make it for you right there in his facility.  He has all sorts of materials to suit your needs -- Styrofoam beads that fill those big bean bag chairs, a type of fabric called Dakron, which is similar to quilting material, shredded Styrofoam and a variety of densities of foam.

"They come in with ideas and as far as they know, it is Willy Wonka's chocolate factory and I just say, okay, what is it you want me to make?  What is it that you need?" said Russ.

Russ says his custom pieces have brought relief and comfort to many customers with injuries and special needs.

In fact, ARC, an organization that serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is one of Russ' regular customers.

ARC's Director of Operations, Billy Parker, says Russ' bean bags are a hit with clients.

"People that are in wheelchairs love to get out of their wheelchair and have a way to be able to either be on their side or their back, on their stomach," he said.

Russ makes ARC's bean bag chairs out of special vinyl fabric that can be easily wiped down.

And he seals each seam with a protectant, so spills can't leak through the chair.

"All you gotta do is sit in it, move around a little bit and it will be form fitted to the person," said Parker.

Billy says one of the perks of working with The Pillow Shop is that Russ will personally fix any problem with a chair, whether mending a tear or replacing filling.

But the even bigger benefit is seeing how much the chairs help ARC clients.

"If you set somebody down in one of those chairs, or assist them in getting out of their wheelchair and look at somebody's face when they're feeling comfortable and relaxed and happy to be in their wheelchair for a while, that says a lot."

Russ makes all kinds of custom pieces beyond what was featured in this story. He says if you can explain what you need, he's confident he can make it for you.

The Pillow Shop
2125 S. Priest, #302
Tempe, AZ
480-966-8100

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