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Cancer claims Hardwood Specialties founder Mike Oates

 Image of Mike OatesMike Oates

GENEVA, Ill. — Michael (Mike) Oates, founder of dining chair specialist Hardwood Specialties, died May 29 after a fight against cancer. He was 64.

Oates played baseball as a young man, was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds and played for several minor league teams. Later, he went to work for the family furniture business in the mid-1970s, restoring and selling antiques in Schaumburg, Ill.

He later formed Harwood Specialties, which assembled chairs from hardwood parts imported from the Balkans. Oates supplied the chairs to the Naked Furniture store chain, which grew out of an unfinished furniture store opened by his brother Lou in Roselle, Ill.

In addition to Naked Furniture stores in Illinois and several other Midwest states in the Midwest, Oates also supplied other retailers in the unfinished furniture industry.

He sold the business in 2011 due to his declining health.

He and his brothers Lou and Tim were also involved in the 1990 formation of the Unfinished Furniture Assn., now known as the Authentic Home Furnishings Assn. Mike Oates exhibited in all but one of the 22 association-sponsored annual trade shows since then.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy, three children and several siblings.

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