Writer Tom Scanlon
Photographer Bryan Black
[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen Bill Meginnis was a cop in the Midwest, one scenario used to drive him nuts. He would answer a home invasion call, and the guy would be all beat up. “He had a gun, but it was in a safe in the back of a closet, and he didn’t have time to get it,” he says.
Even worse: “People would leave guns lying around. They didn’t lock them up.”
For a few decades, Meginnis – now an investigator for Maricopa County – has been escaping from the gritty, bloody, depressing world of law enforcement by coming home, hitting the garage and firing up the power saws. He learned the craft of carpentry at age 10, taught by his father and grandfather. In Chicago (where he often made basement bars for his cop buddies) and here in Arizona, turning raw wood into tables, cabinets, shelves and chairs was a tremendous release from his day job.
Until the day the two came together.
Inspired by a client’s request that sent his mind spinning like a combination lock, Meginnis is now making furniture that doubles as safes, with hidden drawers opened by clever keys. That coaster? It holds a strong magnet which, when attached just like so on an end table, pulls open a hidden drawer to reveal a gun. Or jewelry. Or bonds, cash, wills, and other important documents.
Or – believe it or not – gold bars.
“People tell me these things they want to hide,” the linebacker-sized Meginnis says, from his New River garage/workshop. “I tell them, ‘Don’t tell me, I don’t need to know!'” Apparently, he’s even had some people find More information on the Truthaboutguns and other websites to determine the size of the secret storage compartments they’d need for their firearms, to then relay the same information to Meginnis to start the project.
Of course, Meginnis is a trusted sort who can keep a secret. Though ironically, the word is getting out about his Top Secret Furniture.
NRAfamily.org recently had a story highlighting five gun-hiding options to hide your home defense firearm in furniture or decorative objects. One of the five options was a Meginnis design.
“The folks at Top Secret Furniture offer an approach designed to be part of your family’s life for decades to come: hand-crafted hardwood pieces built to last,” raves the reviewer. “Although they offer a wide variety of end tables, media centers, bookshelves and nightstands, I zeroed in on the High Caliber Coffee Table because it sits where many of us spend the majority of our time at home: in the living room, right by the couch.
“The secret compartment, located under the fully functional and visible storage drawers, locks with a steel pin and is accessible to you via a wireless keypad and remote locking mechanism that only needs four AAA batteries.”
That review helped kick Top Secret Furniture into overdrive. The little company is a family business, with Bill’s wife, Sandy, running the office side of things and daughter, Samantha, on social media in the house. Out in the garage, Bill, his 17-year-old son, Billy, and Cristian Figueroa (Samantha’s boyfriend) produce Bill’s double-use designs.
The ol’ Wild West of gun-friendly Arizona is a fitting setting for Top Secret, though the family moved out here long before the concealed coffee table idea came to fruition.
When Meginnis was getting close to retiring as a police officer, he flew to Arizona to help a friend inspect a house in then-new Anthem. Meginnis gave a deep chuckle, recalling that first trip: “I was like, ‘Oh my God, this place is beautiful. Everyone waves at you – with all their fingers. And there’s no sirens.'” So, the Meginnis family moved to Anthem in 2000, then north to New River a few years ago.
While the hidden drawer aspect is relatively new, Meginnis has been making furniture for decades, not so much moonlighting as he is pursuing a creative outlet. He keeps a notebook on his nightstand, as he often dreams about new designs. But that’s just the beginning, as he has high standards for production. In fact, he has a term for pieces that don’t pass his critique: firewood.
The anti-mass-production crowd is demanding more and more handmade furniture, using good, solid wood as opposed to made-in-China pieces, which use cheap particle board. In addition to Amish-like workmanship, Meginnis is finding an equally solid niche with the secret compartment aspect. He started making hidden compartment prototypes three years ago, selling to friends who requested them.
“Then we did a website, and it just exploded,” he says.
Top Secret is shipping hidden compartment tribute flags ($369), wall clocks ($595), night stands ($1,195), coffee tables ($1,725) and more around the country. Seventy percent of business is on the East Coast, with orders fueled by the likes of the NRA review and testimonials from customers. Top Secret Furniture ranges from simple shelves at $185 to entertainment centers going for upward of $5,000. These locks are a great way to keep your belongings safe. It’s important to stress that keeping your home safe in general by efficient locks is also vital, despite having your deceiving furniture. Installing high-security locks is sure to keep your front door unlockable for intruders. If you’re interested, it’s best you check out a locksmith who can do this for you.
Meginnis loves to hear from customers, and had a good laugh sharing the story of a woman who bought an entertainment center and loaded its secret compartments with jewelry and other treasures. She had a party, and several of her visitors remarked on the beauty of the entertainment center, not realizing it was an elegant safe. As the woman related to Meginnis, “If they only knew what was in it!”
While he has plenty of customers more interested in clocks than Glocks, the cop adrenaline in his system surged when he got a call from a Desert Hills customer. The customer told him someone started banging on his door in the middle of the night. The startled resident opened the secret drawer of his nightstand and pulled out a flashlight and gun stashed there. Unlike the kicked-in door stories from Chicago, the banging stopped and the potential intruder left. But the customer had a message for Meginnis: “I felt so secure.”
And, as the saying goes, no one ever went broke selling security – especially when it looks so nice.