PALM BAY, Fla. – The weathered couch that garnered an internet following, inspiring dozens of West Melbourne and Palm Bay residents to share stories and donate food, will be spared a trip to the dump.
That word came late Monday afternoon as volunteers and authorities began unceremoniously removing the couch and its adornments from a "pop up" monument at the Palm Bay Road entrance to Walmart.
The outdoor living room had grown by the hour following an online video posted by a Palm Bay City Council candidate and after children in dinosaur costumes suggested the spot for a food drive.
By 6 p.m. Monday, the area was clear of furniture and decor. Community organizers said the couch will be taken away and saved.
Why the attention?
The mysterious sofa had been sitting along a sidewalk on the West Melbourne side of busy Palm Bay Road for weeks, soaking in the sun and rain, according to several people who've watched its progression from unwanted seat to a complete roadside living room centerpiece.
This past weekend it took on a new life as a kitschy community centerpiece drawing curiosity seekers.
Dozens of residents from Palm Bay and West Melbourne descended on the furniture, after the couch 'started' its own Facebook page, The Palm Bay Couch. People decorated the surrounding space with matching curtains, a rug, a houseplant and a table stacked with James Patterson hardcover thrillers.
There was even an old 45 record featuring soul artists James ‘J.T.’ Taylor and Regina Belle resting on a coffee table, not far from an air freshener someone left behind. A copy of the Bible sat on a fresh seat cushion.
Tom Forbes, a building official with West Melbourne, said the couch and its accompanying decorative additions were moved to a grassy easement in the Melbourne-Tillman Water Control District’s jurisdiction.
“It was a cute social media thing, but it’s become a safety hazard,” said Dan Anderson, the district manager of the water control district.
The display was then the responsibility of Walmart because it was at the entrance to the retail store, Anderson said.
Capt. Richard Cordeau of the West Melbourne Police Department said early Monday he was told the makeshift living room would be removed by the end of the day.
If only for a moment, residents saw the whimsical, if not surreal site, as a quirky bit of fun and a chance to give back with a hastily organized food drive.
“It’s actually pretty cool,” said Jennifer Koch, a West Melbourne resident who brought her 7- and 11-year-old daughters to the site, just a few yards from the entrance to Chick-fil-A.
Cars whizzed by, with drivers honking as the girls looked over the forsaken treasures that surrounded the musty sofa.
“I actually heard about it and thought we’d come out for a little summertime adventure,” Koch said, adding that the response showed the couch has captured the community’s imagination.
Dinosaurs and charity
The couch began trending online after Palm Bay City Council Seat 4 candidate Kenny Johnson filmed a sit-down, pun-filled interview with his campaign manager while seated on the sofa.
Then, two boys and their mother, on a whim, dressed up as dinosaurs and went to the couch. They came up with the idea of using the sofa’s unspoken charm to collect food for the needy.
"We had so many requests to come back," said Amy Patterson, of her sons Sean, 15 and Christopher, 10. "I think this is wonderful; we took something dirty and nasty and turned into something beautiful and charitable.
"In this world, it’s what we need. We’re all so weary lately.”
The food, collected mostly Sunday evening, will be turned over to the South Brevard Sharing Center. The idea, although raised by the children, was then put into motion by the Johnson campaign, Patterson and Johnson each said.
Over 3,000 people followed developments at the couch on its Facebook page, with fresh postings detailing its status.
Johnson said the idea was to be apolitical and to bring people together.
“We’ve gotten several hundred pounds of food since last night," he said Monday. "What this says to me is that, if just for a moment, we had something positive that brought us together.
“Think what we can accomplish when we put our minds together to tackle the bigger issues.”
Dale Davis, the District 5 chairman of the Brevard Republican Executive Committee, praised the community spirit behind the couch.
“To see people enjoying something on social media is a good thing,” Davis said, watching from the Chick-fil-A parking lot as families and strangers streamed to the site.
Some residents gathered by lamplight around the couch to talk issues, such as concerns over increasing rents and taxes.
As authorities were preparing to haul away the couch and dismantle the display Monday evening, a delivery person from Old School Pizza brought to the site three large pies.
Someone went online, said they were 'the couch' and ordered the three pizzas for the small crowd at the site.
“I saw this on social media and had to come out,” said Nancy Harris, a Palm Bay resident who stopped by to pose for a few photos on the suede couch.
“I just knew that I had to see it.”