Charles Danto: 90 Years Young and No Signs of Slowing

Danto celebrated his 90th birthday by going to work, where he was surprised by cake-bearing staffers Rita Cazares, left, and Olga Vasquez.

By Andy Kriege, YSN

Charles Danto of Danto Furniture in Detroit celebrated his 90th birthday last month.

You might think Danto commemorated the milestone like a typical 90-year-old. Maybe an early afternoon nap, followed by back-to-back episodes of “Wheel of Fortune” and an early dinner, capped off with a stiff drink (and by that we mean an extra teaspoon of Metamucil), and then off to bed.

You might think that, but you’d be very wrong.

Danto Furniture’s Charles Danto

Danto is not your typical nonagenarian, and spent his day a little differently: He got up, jumped in his truck and headed for the store, just as he has for the last 70-plus years. In fact, he may have even stopped to pick up a piece or two of furniture on the way, to put out on the sales floor.

You see, this 90-year-old drives his pickup truck to work every day and often stops to retrieve items from the offsite warehouse clearing center to bring to the main store.

Danto is the second-generation owner of the business, which was founded by his father Julius in 1940. Today, his son Irwin and granddaughter Ashley continue the Danto tradition of serving their southwest Detroit community.

Danto with granddaughter Ashley

“My grandfather is a great boss and leader,” Ashley said of her granddad’s influence on her and the business. “He is a permanent fixture at the store and will be always be remembered in this community as a fearless business owner and a survivor.”

In his more than seven decades on the job, Danto has seen it all. One day in particular that he will never forget was in December 1993. Around lunch time, a team of Detroit firefighters appeared at the store, supposedly in response to a blaze, and were soon joined by four additional fire trucks. But aside from a small whiff of smoke here and there, there were no signs of a fire. Suddenly, flames burst through the walls and within 30 minutes the building was gone.

Following the calamity, which was traced to a faulty furnace, a temporary location called The Clearance Center was opened while the main store was being rebuilt. The Clearance Center proved to be popular and still welcomes customers nearly 30 years after the main location reopened for business.

Danto’s son Irwin finds it odd talking about his dad, as the elder Danto shuns the spotlight and has always kept a low profile. “When the mortgage crisis decimated Detroit in 2008 and abandonment and looting threatened the neighborhood, my dad put up over $100,000 to board up homes and businesses and clean up the surrounding area. It saved this neighborhood from complete destruction and abandonment.”

At the ripe young age of 90, Dante not only shows up for work each day, he’s usually the first to arrive at the store, Irwin said. But he’s no longer the last to leave, departing a half-hour before closing to care for his wife Ruthie.

Son Irwin (standing) with his parents Ruthie and Charles Danto

Nevertheless, “He still waits on customers every day,” Irwin said. “Simple math tells me that he has sold and personally written up well over $100 million in retail furniture sales contracts. That’s a lot of furniture!”

YSN wholeheartedly agrees, and wishes Charles and the Danto family many more years of happiness and success.

BrandSource, a unit of YSN publisher AVB Inc., is a nationwide buying group for independent appliance, furniture, mattress and CE dealers.