Sidney L. Alderman (b.1860 d.1931), a pioneer of furniture photography, founded Alderman Studios in 1898 and was its president until 1931. One day, around the turn of the century, while watching a traveling furniture salesman struggle with a mule-drawn wagon filled with sample chairs and case goods, it occurred to him that if he photographed the pieces, the salesman would then be able to sell with little more than a saddlebag full of photographs.
Alderman’s formal education in photography consisted of one year as an understudy to Bachrach, the renowned photographer in New York City, in 1880-1881. In 1892, he opened a portrait studio in Greensboro, NC, which he later moved to High Point, to be nearer the furniture center.
Alderman Studios became one of the largest commercial still photography studios in the world, encompassing some 250,000 square feet. They pioneered 17 staging areas and a collection of accessories and architectural elements worthy of a museum. Individual windows, walls, fireplaces, and stairways were combined, torn down, and combined again to create unique settings for the perfect shots.
Sidney Alderman’s use of photography in selling furniture simplified and advanced the sale and marketing of furniture. The studio’s growth greatly contributed to the emergence of the home furnishing and textile industries in the Southeast.
Furniture retailer Hershel Alpert was a man of many talents. In addition to serving as president and CEO of Alperts Inc., the company he cofounded, Mr. Alpert was an esteemed mentor, consultant and university faculty member.
Mr. Alpert began his career working for Alpert’s Furniture Store, his father’s business in New Bedford, Mass., during college breaks. After serving in the U.S. Army, he returned to later become president of Arlan’s Furniture, a subsidiary of Alpert’s Furniture with stores in Massachusetts, New York and Florida. When his father sold the business in 1972, Mr. Alpert and his brother, Fred, founded Alperts Inc. With very little capital, they opened a furniture showroom and warehouse in a 90,000 sq.-ft. building in Seekonk, Mass., which was sold to General Cinema Corp. Mr. Alpert continued as president, growing the business to 15 stores located in New York, Ohio, Florida and Massachusetts.
In 1985, Mr. Alpert, his brother and merchandiser Burt Tassel bought back three stores, closed two, and expanded the original store to 150,000 square feet. For the next 35 years, as president and CEO, Mr. Alpert implemented innovative ideas and best practices, including computerized bar coding, POS and computer-aided design. The company received both the Brand Names Foundation Retailer of the Year and the Retailers Association of Massachusetts Retailer of the Year awards. In 2007, the partners sold the business to Raymour & Flanigan with the stipulation that its 155 employees would retain their jobs.
Rather than retiring at age 75, he founded Alpert Consulting. A tireless mentor to young people in the industry, he also lectured at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, where he was a faculty member and Senior Executive in Residence.
Mr. Alpert served as president and chairman of the National Home Furnishings Association and its Foundation, and in 2005 was named NHFA Retailer of the Year. He was on the board of the Home Furnishings Association, New England, and in 2009 received its Arthur J. Adelizzi Distinguished Service Award. Mr. Alpert also traveled regularly to Washington to lobby on behalf of the industry and served on the industry board of directors of the City of Hope Hospital in Los Angeles.
Mr. Alpert was a leader in his community, as well, serving on numerous boards, including the Buttonwood Park Zoological Society, the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra and the United Way of Greater New Bedford. He also was a member of the City of New Bedford Industrial Development Financing Authority and the City of New Bedford Airport Commission.
In 1932, Nat Ancell (b.1908 d.1999) recognized as the furniture industry’s true visionary, co-founded Ethan Allen with his brother-in-law Theodore Baumritter. Prior to that, while acquiring a law degree from Columbia University, Nat read in a textbook that “Home is the Core of Civilization.” That became Nat’’s central tenet, and would guide Ethan Allen through the formation of the Ethan Allen concept, and became, for many, the true mission of the furniture industry—“To promote dreams, not just furniture—to help consumers have the attractive home they want regardless of their station in life.”
Nat Ancell was the father of the gallery concept. During his early years, Ethan Allen furnishings were marketed through department stores and general furniture stores. In the 1950s, the search began for stores that would use the Ethan Allen gallery display concept with furniture and accessories in decorative room vignettes. Ethan Allen showrooms in New York, Chicago, Dallas, and High Point promoted the gallery concept, and more and more retailers began to embrace the idea.
Ethan Allen began to create free-standing galleries in the 1960s and expand manufacturing facilities to support the concept. Organization was added to support necessary marketing, merchandising, and educational programs.
The publication “Ethan Allen Treasury” was introduced in 1962 to educate consumers on furnishings and home décor, and was regularly updated. The Ethan Allen stores reached 200 in 1971 and annual sales in 1978 were $237,000,000. By 1999, company and independently owned galleries numbered 309, with 1998 sales at $762,000,000.
Alfred Audi (b. 1938 d. 2007) graduated from Colgate University in 1960 and started his career in the retail showroom of his father, E.J. Audi, in New York City. During this time, Mr. Audi served in the National Guard with New York City’s 42nd Infantry Division.
After his father’s death in 1968, Mr. Audi continued on as President of E.J. Audi until 1974. He then purchased the legendary, but ailing manufacturer L. & J.G. Stickley. With the help of his wife and business partner, Aminy, Mr. Audi revived Stickley from a company with less than 25 employees, to a thriving international business with three factories, 14 showrooms, and more than 1,600 employees worldwide. In 1981, he expanded the original Stickley plant in Fayetteville, N.Y. and in 1985, relocated Stickley to a new state-of-the-art facility in Manlius, N.Y.
Mr. Audi’s dedication and vision brought Stickley the national prominence it continues to enjoy to this day. In 1995, he purchased the Heirloom Upholstery factory in High Point, and kept the workforce employed in what has become Stickley Fine Upholstery. Mr. Audi and his family also purchased the assets of John Widdicomb, Cibola Leather and Madison Square. He preserved and revitalized these three entities with the same energy and reverence that saved and elevated Stickley to a position of distinction within the industry.
Mr. Audi served on many boards, including M&T Bank, AFMA, Metropolitan Development Association, SUNY Health Science Center Skins Game, Brooklyn YMCA and the Board of Deacons at Plymouth Church. He was named “Entrepreneur of the Year” by the CNY Business Journal, “Citizen of the Year” by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce,” received the “Wall of Fame Award,” by the Manufacturers’ Association of Central New York, the 2004 “Laurel Award” by the International Furnishings and Design Association’s New York Chapter, the Ernst & Young Upstate New York “Entrepreneur of the Year” award, and in 2006 was awarded an honorary “Doctor of Humane Letters” from Colgate University.
Throughout his career Mr. Audi sought new challenges and surrounded himself with the best talent, rewarding them for helping shape Stickley’s future and destiny. He led by example in both word and deed.
As president of the Florida company founded by his great-grandfather, Wogan S. “Wogie” Badcock, Jr. (b. 1932 d.1996) paved the way for extensive growth and innovation in the retail furniture industry. During his 30-year tenure with W.S. Badcock Corporation, Mr. Badcock honored the company’s tradition of excellence while modernizing and improving business processes. A targeted marketing strategy, combined with a mix of affordable, quality furniture, and easy in-store Badcock terms made it possible for average, working class citizens to afford attractive home furnishings. Mr. Badcock expanded the chain to more than 300 stores throughout the Southeast, providing entrepreneurial opportunities for more than 200 associate dealers in six states. He also built three additional distribution centers to serve the stores and the company’s nearly 200,000 in-store credit account customers.
Mr. Badcock successfully incorporated new concepts while maintaining the family-like atmosphere of the company. To foster the connection with both corporate employees and associate dealers, he created the company newsletter, the W.S. BeeLine, which is still published today. He also oversaw the computerization of billing procedures, records and inventory systems and the production of the company’s first merchandise catalog. To position the company as a leading furniture retailer, he emphasized advertising including the company’s television sponsorship of the George Jones and Tammy Wynette Show. He later recruited musician Mel Tillis as a spokesperson, and also encouraged the company’s sponsorship of the Winston Cup Car # 12.
From an early age, Mr. Badcock’s civic and community involvement reflected a commitment to youth and education. He was a trustee for the Lakeland YMCA, a lifetime member of the Florida Boys Ranch and initial endower of the Lakeland Boys and Girls Club. He served on the boards of Florida Southern College, the University of South Florida and Polk Community College. Mr. Badcock partnered with other Lakeland area businesses to form the Polk Education Foundation & Business Partnership to support the school system, and he worked with the Southern Scholarship Foundation to provide rent-free housing to qualified students at select Florida universities. “Badcock will treat you right” has been the corporation’s slogan since its inception; Mr. Badcock truly lived up to the motto, both in his career and his personal life.
Wogan Badcock (b.1898 d.1987) purchased his first furniture store from his father in June, 1920 for $1.78 and a promissory note for $9,000, and built it into a chain of over 240 stores. The slogan “Badcock Will Treat You Right” has been the family motto since 1904, when the company started in a two-room store, with living quarters in the back.
He was a true pioneer in both the wholesale furniture distributor’s area and at the retail level. He was one, if not the first, of the wholesale distributors to be a legitimate retailer and not just a wholesale showroom.
Badcock pioneered the idea of franchises before the word meant anything outside of baseball. He was able to make a success of the franchise stores (he called them “associate stores”). His honest, truthful, and upright way of doing business was indelibly imprinted on the Badcock Corporation’s personality. His policy of greeting and hearing the presentation of all manufacturers’ representatives who called is still in practice.
He received many honors as an industry and community leader; the state of Florida cited him for outstanding leadership in helping to develop the state; the Mulberry Press dedicated an entire daily paper to his life; the Mulberry Little League complex and the Municipal Pool were dedicated in his honor.
Hollis S. Baker (b.1888 d.1966) was a trailblazer and “Renaissance Man” of the furniture industry. He was artist, connoisseur, salesman, administrator, and leader. Upon graduation from the University of Michigan, he entered his father’s company, Baker Furniture, and remained with it all his working life. He was its head from 1925 until his death in 1966 and presided over its spectacular success and growth over that period.
His company’s leadership in design excellence and maintenance of the highest quality standards came directly from his insistence. Through his own products, he raised the performance levels of the entire industry.
From his own research, he learned more about the history of furniture design and construction than anyone else of this era. His knowledge, experience, and acquisitiveness resulted in a major collection of exemplary pieces now housed in his Baker Museum in Holland, Michigan, and the Grand Rapids Art Museum.
Virtually his whole life was devoted to furniture. He was dedicated to design, serving as president and trustee of the Grand Rapids Art Museum and trustee of the Parsons School of Furniture Design in New York. He was instrumental in the founding of American Institute of Decorators (now the American Society of Interior Designers).
As much as any man, J. D. Bassett (b.1866 d. 1965), founder of the Bassett Furniture Industries, Inc., shaped the complexion of the American Furniture Industry and established the South as the nation's predominant area for furniture manufacturing. He was responsible for starting a company that In 50 years went from being a shipper of raw lumber to the world's largest producer of wood furniture.
His foresight and competitive spirit helped spawn numerous other furniture manufacturing companies, among them Stanley, Vaughan, and Vaughan-Bassett, Hooker, United Furniture, Galax Mirror and Bassett Mirror, to whom he contributed manufacturing' know-how and Initial capital.
During the depression he gifted employees with hams and developed staggered work schedules to enable them to earn enough for their basic needs. Bassett founded the First National Bank of Bassett and helped his wife with construction of the Pocahontas Bassett Baptist Church as well as a community and recreation center for the town
John D. Bassett (b.1938), chairman of Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co., is a champion of American-made furniture and the third generation to work in the furniture industry. Under his leadership, Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co. sales have increased from $38 million in 1983 when he joined the company to more than $90 million today, the largest wood bedroom manufacturer in the United States.
With nearly 700 employees at plants in Virginia and North Carolina, Mr. Bassett believes that no one can outperform the American worker when given leadership, training and the best equipment. Mr. Bassett has reduced the percentage of imports to less than 2 percent of the company’s total sales and in 2012 oversaw an $8 million plant expansion, which included the purchase and reopening of a furniture factory. He has served as chairman of the Committee for Legal Trade which helped level the playing field for U.S. furniture manufacturers faced with unfair foreign competition and advocated for a critical Environmental Protection Agency rule change that benefits both the furniture industry and the environment.
After serving three years as an officer in the U.S. Army, Mr. Bassett began his career at Bassett Furniture Inds. in 1959, working in sales, marketing, manufacturing and management. Today, Vaughan-Bassett uses state-of-the-art equipment and systems to offer a wide selection of colors, finishes and sizes within each collection and Vaughan-Bassett Express (VBX), a quick-delivery program, promises 7-day delivery on about half of the company’s line. Devoted to the work force, Mr. Bassett established the innovative Vaughan-Bassett Free Clinic for all employees and their families. Mr. Bassett also created Vaughan-Bassett’s “One for One” tree replenishment program, which has planted 900,000 trees throughout the U.S. during the past six years.
A champion of the industry, Mr. Bassett shares his knowledge about successful domestic furniture manufacturing through onsite visits with other U.S. manufacturers. His honors include the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) Distinguished Service Award, the InFurniture Magazine Man of the Year Award and the International Home Furnishings Representatives Assn. Pillar of the Industry Award. His board service has included the AHFA, International Woodworking Fair, and American Furniture Hall of Fame Foundation.
His community involvement includes serving as a board member of the Cherry Lane Volunteer Fire Department, the Bassett Volunteer Fire Department and the Martinsville/Henry County United Fund. Vaughan-Bassett also supports a free health clinic in Galax, the Galax Public Schools program which provides weekend meals to needy children, and the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges. The John D. and Patricia Exum Bassett Foundation supports many worthy causes in Virginia and North Carolina.
Don Belgrad (b. 1939) is known as the epitome of diplomacy, loyalty and unselfish service. He works tirelessly for industry and philanthropic causes, showing compassion for others, a belief in building strong relationships, insistence on great customer service, and a commitment to creating a corporate culture that breeds corporate and personal success.
Except for a two-year stint selling Honeywell large frame computers just after college, he spent his entire career at Schnadig International Corp., joining the company, founded by his father-in-law, Lawrence K. Schnadig, as private brands liaison to Sears, Roebuck & Co. Through the years, Mr. Belgrad would hold many positions until becoming Chairman and now Chairman Emeritus. During his tenure, he built Schnadig into the largest family-owned producer of upholstery in the United States, bought a table factory in order to introduce correlated upholstery and occasional groups, and added case goods presented as correlated living rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms. He quickly recognized the global manufacturing trend and pioneered the move of production to Taiwan and China where he established a wholly owned subsidiary, Schnadig Ltd., to ensure quality and production control, and administration of the company’s off-shore supply chain. In January 2009, he orchestrated the sale of Schnadig to Markor International Furniture.
Esteemed throughout the industry, Mr. Belgrad considers his single greatest accomplishment to be leading the industry effort to consolidate the Northern and Southern Furniture Manufacturer’s Association into what is now known as the American Home Furnishings Association. In 2002, he was honored with the International Home Furnishings Representatives Association Pillar of the Industry Award and in 2006 he received the President’s Award for service to the industry from the Greater Midwest Home Furnishings Representatives Association. He has served as president and chairman of the board of the National Association of Furniture Manufacturers, on the board of the Home Furnishings Council and on the board of governors of the Southern Furniture Market Center. He has served two terms as president of the board of the American Furniture Hall of Fame Foundation, where he lead strategic planning that will result in the publication of all oral histories, the establishment of and plans for an extensive website, and the launch of the long term initiative to research and write a comprehensive history of the American furniture industry for future generations.
Mr. Belgrad’s commitment to the industry is matched only by his equally impressive dedication to helping others. He was a director of the Powell Company and has received the City of Hope Humanitarian Award and the National Conference for Community and Justice Humanitarian Award. Mr. Belgrad is a director of the Scholarship and Guidance Association Youth & Family Services. He helped found the Roseland Children’s Initiative and has served on the boards of Chicago Youth Centers, the American Jewish Committee and the Medical Research Institute Council of Michael Reese Hospital. His personal generosity is perhaps best exemplified by his contribution of time as an involved mentor to a troubled youth through high school, college and now as a productive and successful adult.
Beloved by employees and respected throughout the community and industry for his integrity, George Alexander “Alex” Bernhardt (b. 1943) has led Bernhardt Furniture Company to its position as an award-winning design leader with an impeccable reputation for the highest quality residential and contract furniture. Through his emphasis on excellent design, innovative partnering with Asian manufacturers, lean manufacturing techniques and environmental sustainability, Mr. Bernhardt’s positive influence has helped shaped the furniture industry.
During the past 46 years, including 30 as CEO, Mr. Bernhardt has worked in virtually every position at Bernhardt. He has quadrupled the size of the business founded by his grandfather in 1889, making Bernhardt the largest high-end furniture company in the United States. Under his direction, Bernhardt has won nine Pinnacle awards and 32 Best of Neocon awards. The company also was among the first of American manufacturers to import parts and later fully made furniture from Asia, a strategic move that became the industry model for furniture outsourcing.
In 2000, Mr. Bernhardt received the American Furniture Manufacturers Association (AFMA) Distinguished Service Award, and in 2002, the Anti-Defamation League’s Humanitarian Award. As president of the Southern Furniture Manufacturers Association in 1982, Mr. Bernhardt led a merger with the National Association of Furniture Manufacturers to create a strong national organization, the AFMA. He has served as president of the International Home Furnishings Marketing Association and in various capacities with the American Home Furnishings Alliance, Furniture Foundation Inc., FurnPac, the International Home Furnishings Center Market Advisory Board, the 3-M Furniture and Fabric Industry Center Advisory Council, the Dallas Market Center Board of Governors, and the Atlanta Home Furnishings Mart Board of Governors. Mr. Bernhardt has held board seats on Fortune 500 companies and served North Carolina on several governor’s advisory boards, including the N.C. Business Council of Management and Development Inc. and the N.C. Governor’s Air Transport Advisory Committee. He has been a director of Duke Energy since 1991 and was elected chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s Charlotte branch.
Mr. Bernhardt, an Eagle Scout, is dedicated to compassionate, hands-on stewardship. He has served as an elder in the Presbyterian Church and created the Bernhardt Furniture Foundation to support the local community, which lost thousands of jobs after 2008. Mr. Bernhardt is chairman of the N.C. chapter of The Nature Conservancy and is involved in several environmental groups. He also works diligently for education, founding a 5-star daycare center, providing scholarships for single parents, serving as a director for Communities in Schools, and serving as a trustee for several colleges and universities, including his alma mater, Davidson College. The Anne and Alex Bernhardt Foundation provides support to a free medical clinic and a center for abused children. Other service includes the North Carolina Community Foundation, Catawba Valley Community Foundation, Caldwell United Way, the Morganton/Lenoir Airport Authority, Fort Defiance Inc., Lenoir Downtown Association, Lenoir Little Theater Association, Caldwell Memorial Hospital, Caldwell 20/20, and Caldwell County Chamber of Commerce.
John Christian Bernhardt (b. 1906 d. 2003) was Chairman of the Board of Bernhardt Industries, which was founded by his father in 1889. John Christian joined the company in 1927, starting at the lumber yard, rough end, veneer department, and advancing through the entire production process.
With a degree in Business Administration from Davidson College, Bernhardt was well qualified to lead the company through the acquisition of a series of other companies and participation In several joint ventures. He added upholstery manufacturing to their successful case goods line. This resulted in considerable growth in sales, production, and the number of employees.
His concern for employees was a top priority. He saw that the company accorded a number of benefits long before other companies adopted the practice and he included the employees of each newly acquired company. Under his guidance, Communications Teams were formed and later Quality Circles were added...all to give employees a voice in the company and a share of the earnings.
John Christian Bernhardt has been a distinguished leader within the furniture Industry and In every area of his life. He served as president of the Furniture Manufacturers Marketing Association, Director of SFMA (now AFMA), received the James T. Ryan Distinguished Service Award and was the first recipient of the Johnson Wax Centennial Award. He served as an officer and director of many companies, foundations, civic, and community organizations
Nathan I, "Sandy" Bienenstock (b.1902 d.1988) was one of the most important home furnishings journalists of his generation. During his 66 year entrepreneurial career, he reached out to the retail community, furniture manufacturers, sales representatives, and designers, both personally and through the pages of "FURNITURE WORLD." a publication that continues to thrive through his vision into its 127th year.
He became an authority on furniture styles, production methods and marketing. Articles in "Furniture World" and educational brochures have provided "how-to's" and much needed training to all areas of the industry.
He traveled world wide for more than half a century collecting over 8,000 books on furniture, architecture, fabrics, and manufacturing, The Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library, founded in 1970 by FURNITURE WORLD Magazine, is the largest and most complete library and public gift of books on home furnishings in the world. "Sandy" wrote four books on home furnishings, Including "History of American Furniture," which is in use as a college text.
Bienenstock received the Southern Furniture Manufacturers' Association "Distinguished Service Award" and the IHFRA "Pillars of Industry Award." He co-founded the Furniture Educational Institute and helped to found the school for furniture engineering at North Carolina State. He began his life of giving in the early 1920s as a counselor for young troubled New York boys from broken homes.
Alvin E. “Bo” Bland (b.1924 d. 2013), president and CEO of Action Industries, joined Futorian Manufacturing Company in Mississippi with a degree in Industrial Management from Mississippi State University. He began his career working with pioneer Morris Futorian, helping to bring modern manufacturing technology and processes into Mississippi.
Over 16 years, he brought state-of-the-art manufacturing expertise into Futorian, allowing it to grow to $250 million in sales. He, with Professor Lorenz, oversaw the mechanical development of the first TV position lounge chair mechanism. He co-founded Action Industries in 1970 which grew to be the second largest motion recliner manufacturer in the U.S. with sales in excess of $400 million. It was merged into The Lane Company in 1972.
“Bo” helped to refine and develop the mechanisms that brought growth to the recliner chair market and greater comfort to the consumer. He was a member of the “Furniture Factory of the Future” committee in the 1960’s and served on numerous committees for the American Furniture Manufacturers Association and its predecessor, the SFMA.
Mr. Bland served on the Executive Committee of Futorian, and as director, vice president, and a member of the Executive Committee of The Lane Company.
His efforts over the past 45 years have helped Mississippi become the second largest state in the U.S. for furniture manufacturing.
Louie Blumkin (b.1919 d. 2013) began his career with his mother, Rose, “Mrs. B” in 1948 at their legendary furniture store, The Nebraska Furniture Mart. He continues at 81 to work there every day. His love for the business and customers is obvious, as he and his family have thrived for over 61 years.
He has been the leader in several innovative business practices. He once said, “If you’ve got the right price, they will find you even in the middle of a river.” He is an innovator of mass furniture merchandising in “America’s largest volume home furnishings store.” He was one of the first with in-store galleries, as many as five at one time.
He was one of the first who was successful at combining furniture, carpet, appliances, and electronics with unbelievable market share in all of those categories. Through his direct leadership, Nebraska Furniture Mart has a market share of 70% in Omaha and the surrounding areas, breaking many industry standards and averages.
Louie served five years overseas in the U.S. Army for which he received two purple hearts.
Rose Gorelick Blumkin (b.1893 d.1998) matriarch of the legendary Blumkin family and founder of Nebraska Furniture Mart, was known for her strength, solid values and ideals, business ethics and community involvement.
"Mrs. B" fled Russia in 1917 and joined her husband Isadore. She started a used clothing and furniture business in a basement with a borrowed $500 investment.
The first Nebraska Furniture Mart opened in downtown Omaha in 1937, but business did not come easy. Manufacturers, at first, would not sell to Mrs. B and banks would not lend her money. By 1948, Mrs. B had raised and saved enough money to move to a better building. Today son, Louie, and grandsons, Ron and Irv, carry on the tradition of "over-deliver and under-promise." Success is attributed to part work ethic, part unwavering commitment to a low-price policy and service, part history and reputation, part vision, and part execution.
In the late 1 930's, Mrs. B worked with a friend on the dream of establishing a Jewish homeland in Palestine by opening her home and inviting prospective supporters. A decade later, Israel was founded and this friend, Golda Meir, served as the first prime minister.
Rose Blumkin is lauded by a U.S. president, members of congress, and business dignitaries as one of America's greatest entrepreneurs ... one whose undaunted spirit built a multi-million dollar business literally from the basement up.
Harold Philip Braun (b.1904 d.1990) was known to his peers as "The Great White Father," a reference to his tall and striking appearance, his white hair and mustache, and to the fact that he authored the Constitution of the International Home Furnishings Representatives Association.
Mr. Braun represented Hickory Cabinet, Granite Furniture, Hickory Furniture Shops, and Berkline. He remained with Berkline most of his career until his retirement. His strong influence on fellow sales representatives extended beyond his company affiliations.
As a leader in his professional association, IHFRA, he originated the "Buy Better Furniture Values Now" program that was tied to the National Open House Week. He presented the idea at IHFRA's Conference in Chicago in 1958, and throughout the year traveled extensively speaking to retailers, manufacturers and suppliers about the program. At a meeting in Greensboro, NC, attended by some 600 industry leaders, the program was adopted. He traveled and spoke extensively in support of the program, sometimes to the neglect of his own business. The program drew commendation from throughout the industry. In 1977 he was presented with lHFRA's Distinguished Service Award (known then as the "Man of the Mark" award), and today the award bears Harold Braun's name.
Harold Braun's gift of leadership extended outside the industry as well. He was an important influence on the passage of the Keogh Self Employment pension law, often traveling to Washington at his own expense to advocate the bill's passage.
Mr. Broyhill (b.1892 d.1988) started as a farm boy, became an apple peddler, and saw mill hand, but James Edgar Broyhill met his destiny when he entered the furniture industry. He soon set up shop in a barn, hauling seating in a cart to peddle on weekends in Charlotte.
Born in a rural Wilkes County farmhouse in 1892, he moved to Lenoir after serving in WWI and began a furniture business in 1926 which has grown to 7,000 employees (since acquired by INTERCO).
During and after WWII, he served on the Advisory Committee of the War Production Board and as chairman of the Furniture Advisory Committee of the Office of Price Administration. For four successive terms in the 1940s, he piloted the Southern Furniture Manufacturers Association, and in the early 1960s, served on the board of directors of the National Association of Manufacturers. His Broyhill Foundation significantly contributes to civic, education and religious causes.
Paul Broyhill (b.1924), past chairman of Broyhill Furniture Industries, worked in the family plants from an early age. He graduated from the University of North Carolina, then served three years in the U.S. Army as an infantry sergeant. He returned to graduate with honors in Business Administration including Phi Beta Kappa membership.
Under his direction, six million square feet of modern manufacturing facilities were built. He traveled to Europe in his quest for the most modern technology, and bought the most modem machinery.
With the help of Bill Stevens, his brother-in-law, he developed an internal "Broyhill University." Many industry leaders today are graduates.
He was one of the first to establish a profit sharing plan for employees whose numbers grew from 1,000 to 7,500 by 1985. He also instituted an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). Sales doubled on the average of every seven years under his leadership, approaching $350 million when the company was sold.
Paul was a marketing innovator seeking exposure through national game shows and shelter magazines. He made personal appearances at over 250 Broyhill Showcase Galleries.
He served on the Board of Directors of AFMA, receiving their "Man of the Year" award in 1996. He also served with the Dallas Market Center, and National Association of Manufacturers.
His substantial philanthropy includes pages of educational, religious, philanthropic and civic contributions.
David Brunn (b.1909 d.1995) served the furniture industry for 60 years as a retailer, sales representative, manufacturer, journalist, educator, lecturer, and industry leader An immigrant son, he was raised in a NYC ghetto, and rose from clerk to Vice President/GM of W&J Sloane, prestigious national retail and contract powerhouse (1924-52).
He guided Drexel Furniture Company as a high end manufacturer, style leader and trend setter as he rose to Board Member and President (1952-1964).
Following his retirement at age 60, he contributed 20 years of additional voluntary service. For ten years, he was Chairman of FICAP and served as a board member for the first all-industry promotions, "Debut 71 & 73." He was a faculty member and advisor for an Appalachian State University furniture course which earned him Honorary Doctorate of Commercial Science. He was a member of the Presidential Commission to explore U.S. furniture European potential (1972) and was an advisor in establishing the American Furniture Hall of Fame (1976 and 1988). He has been recognized with distinguished service awards by Southern and American Furniture Manufacturers Associations.
Mr. Bob Bush, Sr. (b.1931 d. 2010), devoted his entire professional career to Hickory Springs Manufacturing Company where he served as executive vice president of sales before retiring. Born in Rahway, N.J., he graduated from Riverside Military Academy in 1949 and Duke University in 1953, where he was a Phi Beta Kappa. Mr. Bush spent most of his summers as a youth working at Hickory Springs and joined the company full-time after graduation.
Those who worked with Mr. Bush described him as one of the chief architects of the company’s foundation and success. Over his 50 years of service, Mr. Bush built the family company into a business known for its quality, innovation and value.
He recognized the importance of production proximity and timely delivery. He positioned Hickory Springs’ facilities where they could be a strategic advantage to customers who were unable to maintain large raw material inventories. Mr. Bush established a “Just In Time” delivery program in the 1960s.
His foresight of industry trends and pitfalls was invaluable during the formative period of the southern furniture industry. He worked closely with northern and southern manufacturers in terms of location, supply, design, credit and marketing to ensure their ongoing success.
Mr. Bush’s contributions to the home furnishings industry include serving as the second president of the American Furniture Manufacturers Association’s Suppliers Council and serving on the boards of the International Sleep Products Association, Polyurethane Foam Association, the Bienenstock Furniture Library and the American Furniture Hall of Fame Foundation. He was inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame in 2006. He was awarded the Exceptional Service Award and the Robert MacMorran Award by the International Sleep Products Association. In 2008, Mr. Bush was awarded Alumni of the Year from Riverside Military Academy.
Mr. Bush was not just a brightly colored jacket and a smiling face. He was a highly respected individual known for his compassion, honesty and outspokenness.
With a strong sense of family and unwavering commitment to the community, Manuel Capó (b. 1925 d. 2009) grew his family business, El Dorado Furniture, into one of the top 50 of furniture stores in the United States. Focusing on a corporate goal of becoming the number one furniture retailer in the nation, Mr. Capó maintained the personal touch that has characterized El Dorado Furniture for over 40 years. As a leader in the industry, Mr. Capó also became a symbol of giving back, especially to children and their families in South Florida.
The beginnings of El Dorado Furniture date back three generations to Cuba in the 1920s. Mr. Capó’s father, Simon, traded farm products for used furniture, which he restored and then sold. He eventually grew the business to a chain of five furniture stores, Casa Capó, which by 1950 was one of Cuba’s largest furniture enterprises. When Fidel Castro came into power, Simon Capó’s stores were taken from him, and in 1966, he and two of his sons fled Cuba in a small sailboat christened El Dorado. They obtained political refugee status in the United States, and Simon Capó opened a store named after the boat that brought them to freedom.
As chief executive officer of El Dorado Furniture, Manuel Capó continued his father’s legacy of entrepreneurship and integrity. He captured the confidence and trust of South Florida customers, especially those in the Cuban community. He led the charge in exceptional customer service, targeting ethnic markets, offering same-day delivery, promoting the store as a brand and giving back to the community and industry. Among Mr. Capó’s unique concepts are showrooms designed around a Boulevard—a nostalgic main street with realistic building facades, old-fashioned street lamps and benches—which opens into individual, specialized furniture galleries.
El Dorado epitomizes the definition of a successful family business. All seven of Mr. Capó’s sons worked side-by-side with him, along with 10 of his 20 grandchildren. Mr. Capó instilled in his family a passion for helping others. The company actively works with charities including Miami Children’s Hospital, March of Dimes, League Against Cancer, Habitat for Humanity, Amigos for Kids, American Red Cross and City of Hope. For the company’s 40th anniversary, Mr. Capó and his family celebrated by furnishing the homes of 40 needy South Florida families.
In October 2010, Manuel Capó was inducted in the American Furniture Hall of Fame. The timing of this honor is especially poignant as October is Hispanic Heritage month, and Manuel is the first Hispanic to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Furthermore, the induction took place on October 17th, just one day shy of the 44th anniversary marking the first time Manuel touched land after leaving Cuba.
In the highly competitive field of trade magazine publishing, Joe Carroll (b. 1939) has distinguished himself as a respected furniture leader, highly recognized for his contributions to the industry both here and abroad. As publisher, Mr. Carroll has led Furniture/Today to become the furniture and mattress industry’s leading news publication and definitive source of industry statistics. He also has developed several sister publications, helped organize a global home furnishings publications group, written four books, won prestigious awards, and provided valuable service to the industry and community.
After graduating from the University of Virginia and then earning a master’s degree from Princeton and studying for a year at the Sorbonne in Paris, Mr. Carroll taught at several universities. He joined advertising agency J.P. Hogan in 1969, where he rose to vice president. Mr. Carroll joined Furniture/Today in 1977 and was named publisher in 1985. He was instrumental in developing sister publications, Kids Today and Home Accents Today, as well as a daily e-mail news service. Under his leadership, Furniture/Today and its related publications have expanded the industry’s information base and enhanced industry communications. He also helped organize and chaired the International Alliance of Furnishings Publications, which exchanges valuable industry information.
Mr. Carroll has a remarkable grasp of how the industry works and has shared his knowledge through speeches, television appearances, a newspaper column for the Greensboro News & Record, and four successful tabletop books on home furnishings design. Furniture manufacturers, retailers and importers seek his advice and respect his input and judgment. In 1997, the International Home Furnishings Representatives Association named him the Pillar of the Industry, and in 2006, he was honored with the City of Hope Spirit of Life award.
Mr. Carroll has served as president of the American Furniture Hall of Fame Foundation and its Legacy Board, and as chairman of the High Point University Home Furnishings Advisory Board. He is chairman elect of the High Point Museum and president of the Piedmont Triad Council for International Visitors. He has served on the boards of the High Point Chamber of Commerce and the String and Splinter Club and is part of the Greensboro “100 Club” of progressive leaders. He also is active in Furnitureland Rotary Club and as a fundraiser for the Newcomer’s School, which helps support foreign children in the Greensboro area.
George B. Cartledge, Sr. (b. 1910 d. 1997) was chairman of Grand Piano and Furniture in Roanoke, Virginia, a Top 100 Furniture Chain with 23 stores in 16 cities across Virginia, Tennessee, Maryland, and South Carolina. Mr. Cartledge got his start in the industry as a salesman in Atlanta in 1931. In 1937, he and two partners established Southeast Wholesale Furniture in Atlanta and expanded to Roanoke in 1945 with their acquisition of Grand Piano and Furniture Company. Throughout the growth of his company, Mr. Cartledge demanded perfect honesty and consideration for customers, offering a frosty Coke® to everyone who walked in the store. In 1998, one million Cokes were given to people who never will forget Grand’s hospitality.
When Mr. Cartledge received the National Home Furnishings Association “1996 Retailer of the Year” award, which recognizes business leadership as well as industry and community service, it was stated, “His accomplishments as a businessman, father, citizen, industry and commerce leader serve as a role model and guide for all of us in the home furnishings industry.” He was the recipient of the Virginia Retailer of the Year and received honors from numerous civic organizations. George Cartledge believed in the credo, “You have to put more into business, the community, into living than you take out.” He lived it every day of his life.
In 1931, Bernard Castro and his wife, Theresa, started Castro Decorators with $400. It would soon become Castro Convertibles, a manufacturer and retailer of sleeper sofas, ultimately selling more than five million convertible sleeper sofas exclusively through their own 48 retail showrooms on the East Coast. Castro had two large upholstery plants, one in New Hyde Park, New York and one in Ocala, Florida, with a separate steel mechanism plant in New Hyde Park. From receiving the raw steel to delivering the finished product to the customer’s home, Castro Convertibles was uniquely “vertical.” Always creating, Mr. Castro was an inventor of many patented convertible mechanisms and gave consumers up to a million choices by offering 100 styles, thousands of fabrics and 10 bed sizes. In 1993, the retail and manufacturing operations were sold to Krause’s Sofa Factory.
An emigrant from Italy, he was a furniture apprentice who earned a degree in Interior Decoration from the New York Evening School of Industrial Art. Mr. Castro was involved in every aspect of product development, production, advertising and sales, demanding the utmost quality in every detail. Furniture was displayed with high-end accessories in room settings, to favorably compare it with designer stationary sofas. By highlighting the value of fashion-forward sofa beds and leading product innovation in the category, he created a specialty niche of chain stores for sofas by day that turned into beds for the night. Each showroom was designed to be a destination showplace, attracting people who visited to see the latest interior design trends.
Mr. Castro was an advertising genius with exceptional foresight. He recognized the potential impact of television advertising when only two TV channels existed, airing a commercial featuring his four-year-old daughter, Bernadette, who demonstrated that a Castro Convertible was “so easy, even a child can do it.”
A hands-on leader and avid mentor, who often worked seven days a week, Mr. Castro believed in promoting from within and generously donated his time and resources. In 1963, he received the prestigious Horatio Alger Award. He was a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, a founding member of the Florida Council of 100, a member of the 23rd Street Association and active in the Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce. A supporter of the Florida National Guard, he dedicated several hundred acres of his Ocala farm for a Special National Guard Drop Zone and was named an honorary Green Beret. Mr. Castro received an honorary doctorate from Mercy College. A member of the Knights of Malta and the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, he was a founding member of the Columbus Citizens Foundation and was honored by numerous nonprofit organizations, including Boys Town of Italy and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, both of New York City.
William H. Child ( b.1932) has been chief executive officer of R.C. Willey Company for over 40 years. When he assumed management responsibilities in1954, the company was deeply in debt. He not only saved the company, but also created one of America’s top home furnishings enterprises, moving it from annual sales of $250,000 to a powerful organization of 2,500 employees and $500 million in sales.
He attended Weber College in Utah, where he won awards in track. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Utah and honorary degrees from Weber College and Westminster College.
When R.C. Willey was acquired by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway in 1995, the purchase was a tribute to Bill Child’s leadership abilities to his company, his industry, his church, and his community. He is widely known for his personal integrity and philanthropy.
He was president of the Utah Furniture Association in 1965, National Retailer of the Year in 1989, and named one of “America’s Best Retailers” by Furniture/Today in 1996. He received the Tupelo Market National Buyer’s award in 1997, the UFAC industry service “Dali” award in 1998, Utah “Entrepreneur of the Year” in 2000, and the Furniture Marketing Group’s Retail Executive of the year in 2001. Plus…he is the father of eight children. Their mother is Patricia—known as “Pat.”
Thayer Coggin (b.1922 d. 2003) founded his company in 1953 after returning from service as a U.S. Army medic in North Africa and completing his college degree from High Point University.
He pioneered the move in the United States in 1953 toward producing high quality, contemporary, bold, modern concepts and bright colors of furniture design. This was far removed from the traditional designs that had dominated the American market since the beginning of the industrial age. His company helped define the modern furniture movement of post-World War II America. Thayer was convinced that consumers were ready for new designs that would allow more flexibility and personal expression in interior design.
From the beginning, his selection of designer Milo Baughman produced an award winning team that was on the cutting edge of new directions in design and manufacturing excellence in the United States. Thayer Coggin was the first to produce a contemporary styled recliner in United States. Thayer held many patents. He received the first “Outstanding Designer Support Award” presented by the Society of Furniture Designers in 1989.
Thayer and his wife, Dot, have been known for their cooperation, contributions, and involvement in the furniture industry as well as the High Point community.
Thayer Coggin truly changed the face of retailing choices and helped create the contemporary market.
Harry M. Cornell, Jr. (b. 1928), chairman emeritus of Leggett & Platt Inc., built a small regional company into a Fortune 500 manufacturing giant. The grandson of a founder of Leggett & Platt, Mr. Cornell joined the company in sales in 1950 and rose through the ranks to become president and chief executive officer in 1960. During the next 52 years, he transformed Leggett & Platt from five plants and $7 million in annual sales into a $4 billion company with 130 plants in 18 countries. Today, Leggett & Platt, a world leader in component manufacturing, employs nearly 19,000 around the globe.
Mr. Cornell achieved remarkable growth through innovation and acquisition. His many milestones included the initial public offering of Leggett & Platt common stock in 1967 and the 1979 listing on the New York Stock Exchange. As a supplier that manufactured component parts, created the machinery to make them and produced the raw materials, Mr. Cornell expanded Leggett & Platt into eight industries. He directed the opening of national production plants with satellite distribution centers, established consistent quality standards, emphasized impeccable customer service, and provided “just in time” delivery before the term existed. In 1998, it ranked in the top 6 percent of nearly 500 major corporations in the Fortune survey, “America’s Most Admired Corporations.” A visionary who considered each achievement to be a team effort, Mr. Cornell encouraged everyone around him to strive for excellence. He believed in “an attitude of discontent,” briefly celebrating an accomplishment and then challenging his team to make its own products obsolete, because he believed the company owed its customers continual innovation.
Mr. Cornell is past president of the American Innerspring Manufacturer’s Association and received the Award of Exceptional Service in 1983 from the National Association of Bedding Manufacturers (now the International Sleep Products Association). He was honored with the CEO Award from Financial World for five years and with the CEO Award from The Wall Street Transcript for three years. Under his direction, Leggett & Platt has always generously supported industry causes, both financially and with leadership resources.
At the University of Missouri, his alma mater, he helped conceptualize the new Business School building, dedicated as Cornell Hall in 2002. In 2003, the university awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Law. He also funds the Cornell Leadership Scholarship. Mr. Cornell served on the Carthage Board of Education and the St. John’s Hospital Board of Directors, and was active in many other community organizations, as well as local and state politics. In 1998, he was named Citizen of the Year in Carthage, Missouri, where Leggett & Platt was founded and remains headquartered today.
Mr. Cornell, an avid big game hunter, bird watcher, tennis player and collector of Western Art, continues to serve as chairman emeritus of Leggett & Platt, an S&P 500 company.
Robert George Culp, Sr. (b.1917 d.1991) devoted his entire career to the further development of the upholstery fabric industry.
In 1972, at age 55, he risked his entire life savings to start Culp, Inc. with his son, Rob. During 20 years as the head of Culp, he guided the firm from fabric converter to one of the leading vertical manufacturers of upholstered fabrics in our industry. In addition, he became a manufacturer of Jacquards, dobbies, prints and velvets. Sales at his death approached $200 million.
Recognized as a leader in all areas of fabrics, he introduced many new concepts regarding the application of various upholstered fabric instructions to upholstered furniture, including developing 54" as a standard width and railroading of fabrics for better cutting yield. He is credited with developing and pioneering the heat-transfer method of printing cloth for upholstery; introducing tufting machinery for the manufacture of velvets; and developing a regional warehouse concept to support manufacturing centers.
His company has become one of the most important suppliers of fabrics for the furniture and bedding industries. He was a builder... not only of a respected company ... but of many educational and civic organizations.
With limited resources, Mr. Culp developed a business from scratch to become a leader in both innovation and growth in a major industry against well-entrenched, powerful competition. He also gave generously of his time, talents, and resources to education and the community.
Arnold Dwight England (b. 1929 d. 1995) founded England/Corsair Upholstery Manufacturing Company in 1964 to create an employment base in his hometown of Tazewell, Tennessee. During the first year, he, his father, and brother hired two people and ended that year with a net loss of $82. His son, Rodney, joined the company in 1968 and became president in 1984.
In 1984-1994 the company employed some 1,500 people, had an annual growth rate of 26.5%, and sales in 1995 of $110 million. Mr. England was instrumental in helping to establish northeast Tennessee as a furniture producing area, thereby reducing unemployment to a 4% rate from around 20%. In 1991, England, Inc. was the largest employer in the county, and still is, with approximately 1,000,000 square feet of manufacturing space.
Mr. England devised and implemented the “Quadrant Delivery Program” in 1983, which has had a major impact on the furniture industry. Customers are guaranteed delivery every four weeks and truckload delivery in two weeks. He received the International Home Furnishings Representatives Association’s “Humanitarian Award” in 1969; was Polyurethane Foam Association’s “Man of the Year” in 1989, and named “Outstanding Manufacturer of 1989” from Ohio Home Furnishings Representatives Association.
In 1992, the company was awarded East Tennessee’s “Entrepreneurial Company of the Year.” In 1995, England/Corsair was purchased by La-Z-Boy Chair Company.
Jerry Epperson (b.1948), born in Virginia, had polio when he was three…yet he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Commerce from the University of Virginia and an MBA from William and Mary. He is a chartered financial analyst and an NASD registered representative.
Jerry became a furniture research analyst with Scott & Stringfellow in Richmond, Virginia in 1971. He then joined Wheat First Securities where he authored the Home Furnishings Research Compendium, a nationally distributed furniture industry data service. This was his start in analyzing furnishing trends, demographic research, and predictions. Jerry had now given the industry something it had lacked—a focused resource of furniture knowledge. Added to his knowledge of mergers and acquisitions, this makes him an invaluable industry asset and resource. Jerry helped form Mann, Armistead, and Epperson in 1991 to focus on the furniture industry. He publishes The Furnishings Digest Monthly.
His sense of humor, humble nature, generous spirit, and vast knowledge of the industry keep him in demand as a speaker, teacher, and columnist…even to briefing the White House. Jerry, who is listed in the “Writers Hall of Fame,” received the “Distinguished Service Award” from AFMA, the “Pillar of the Industry” award from IHFRA, and was on Furniture Today’s list of “Twenty-Five Who Made a Difference.” Jerry, wife Kathryn, and two children are very active in their community.
Art Van Elslander (b.1930) chairman, CEO, and owner of Art Van Furniture, opened his first furniture store in 1959 in Detroit, Mich. His philosophy was “to provide area residents with quality furniture at great prices while implementing high standards of service.”
In spite of Detroit’s struggling economy in the 1950s and 1960s, he was confident and pursued growth. Stores, warehouse facilities, and training programs were added to provide immediate, no-charge delivery to customers. Other innovations followed, including a “30-day satisfaction guarantee,” an Art Van Convenience Card, “Mattress Express,” and in-house repairs.
Today, Art Van operates 28 state-of-the-art stores throughout Michigan with a near 40% share of the state’s furniture market. His success is attributed to his unwavering integrity and the high regard, respect, and loyalty of his employees, customers, and suppliers.
His strong merchandising skills have allowed hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers to have properly furnished homes. He has improved furniture retailing by generously sharing his skills with fellow retailers throughout the country.
Mr. Van Elslander was NHFA’s “Retailer of the Year,” received the 1999 National Home Furnishings and Consumer Electronics Association Award, and was “Michigan Retailer of the Year” in 2000. He and his wife, Mary Ann, have been major supporters of numerous youth, medical, Catholic, art, and other non-profit organizations. They have 10 children and 29 grandchildren.
Bill Fenn, Jr. (b. 1927) grew up in East Texas and served his country in the U.S. Army from 1944 to 1952. During his service, Mr. Fenn earned a Bachelor of Science in applied economics from Yale University and attended classes at Oklahoma University, the University of Minnesota, and the Imperial University of Tokyo, Japan where he studied language, far eastern economics and geography.
Mr. Fenn’s experience in the home furnishings industry spans over 30 years. He was president, chief executive officer and chief operating officer at Stanley Furniture Company and also held senior management positions with Thomasville Furniture Industries and Armstrong World Interiors prior to joining LADD Furniture, Inc. as president and chief operating officer in 1982. In 1990, he was named vice chairman of LADD. He retired from the company in 1992.
Mr. Fenn believes the furniture industry is a global market. His contributions to the North Carolina Furniture Export Council have been extremely important to the growth of the industry overseas. In 2004, he was awarded the Export Appreciation Award by the U.S. Department of Commerce for his support of international trade by small and medium-sized businesses in North Carolina. He served as director of the International Trade Division of the N.C. Department of Commerce and director of the Furniture Export Office in High Point, N.C. He also has served as honorary director of the Piedmont Triad Chapter of the N.C. World Trade Association., which promotes international trade and related education.
Mr. Fenn’s military experience, education, and years of service to the furniture industry prepared him to receive the honor to serve as Honorary Consul General representing Japan in the Southeastern United States. In 1995, he was appointed to the “Order of the Long Leaf Pine,” the highest civilian award that can be presented within the state, by Governor James B. Hunt, Jr.
Mr. Fenn is an individual with boundless energy who embodies the ideals of integrity, intelligence, courage and generosity. He has contributed to and been recognized by the furniture industry, his community, state, national and international government, his church and numerous charitable organizations.
Thomas Austin Finch, Jr. (b.1922 d.1984) played a dominant role in the success of Thomasville Furniture Industries, now a giant in the industry. Under his leadership, the 87-year old company became a powerful force in the national marketplace. After learning every phase of the manufacturing process, Tom A., as he was affectionately called throughout the Industry, assumed the presidency in 1961. He plowed profits back into plant improvement, new equipment, and the employment of top flight designers.
Part of his secret was that Tom A. believed in instituting communications with consumers in advance of designing and market planning - a practice new to the industry, that he advocated in a Merchandise Mart address In Chicago In 1967. He helped to set Industry patterns with his ability to bring out new designs to anticipate market trends in the presentation of products; his insistence on extensive showrooms; and his use of professional interior designers. He created excitement and drama in presentation that carried through to retail sales floors. These pioneering efforts resulted in dramatic sales increases and sophisticated, luxurious gallery displays - such as retail dealers now employ.
He was elected chairman, Board of Governors, American Furniture Mart; president Furniture Factories' Marketing Association; and president of the Southern Furniture Manufacturers' Association (now AFMA). The American Furniture Mart named him "Furniture Man of the Year." SFMA presented him the "J.T. Ryan Award." He served in every area In his community and state... gubernatorial appointments, and a trustee of Woodberry Forest School, High Point College and Duke University... although he was a Princeton graduate.
Henry Foscue (b.1904 d.1985) received a degree in Business Administration in 1926 from the University of North Carolina, and went to work for the Globe Parlor Furniture Company. Over 44 years, he became president and chairman, retiring in 1970 as principal owner.
He became a director of the Southern Furniture Manufacturers Association in 1935, became president in 1949; then chairman. He received the highest honor of that group, the James T. Ryan Award, in 1968. He was designated "Man of the Year" by the Chicago American Furniture Mart in 1948.
In 1958, he was the leader of a group of manufacturers who established the Furniture Manufacturing and Management curriculum at North Carolina State University. Realizing that the educational activity required funding, in 1959 he became founding president of The Furniture Foundation, and served until his death. An endowed professorship and a student loan fund in his name commemorate these efforts. He was director of the Home Economics Foundation at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, and instrumental in founding their program in interior design. For these educational activities, he received a doctorate from NCSU in 1964, from UNC-G in 1966, and from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1981. He was the only non-governor of North Carolina to receive these three doctorates.
He joined the board of the Southern Furniture Exposition Building (now IHFC) in 1931. He was president from 1958 until his death, leading in seven of the ten major expansions of the market building.
Hassell H. Franklin (b.1935), chairman and CEO of Franklin Corp., launched a small, family-owned business in 1970 and built it into one of the largest, privately owned furniture manufacturers in the nation, achieving double-digit growth nearly every year since its founding. Today, Franklin employs a workforce of 1,300 that produces a diverse line of American-made upholstered motion furniture sold throughout the world.
Innovative strategic planning is a cornerstone of Mr. Franklin’s success. More than 43 years ago, when he approached local banks to finance his startup company, he presented a three-year plan – and then accomplished it in just nine months. Mr. Franklin is known for his visionary use of vertical integration and lean manufacturing techniques. In the 1990s, he was among the first in the industry to convert his frame mill from a manual cut-and-sew operation to a more efficient computer numerical control-driven system. Today, the company’s 75-acre campus includes a metal stamping facility, foam fabrication plant, dimension mill, recliner plant and motion sofa plant, as well as a logistics company and a fully equipped research and development department. Leadership classes are held for front-line supervisors and as a debt-free company, attention is focused on the customer experience, quality products, exceptional value and quick delivery.
An enthusiastic industry supporter, Mr. Franklin established a $1 million endowment at Mississippi State University to help build the Franklin Furniture Institute, a research and training center benefitting the furniture community. He has served as president and board member of the American Furniture Manufacturers Assn. (now the American Home Furnishings Alliance) and as a board member of the Furniture Foundation and the Mississippi Manufacturing Assn. He has received the AHFA Distinguished Service Award and Industry Service Award from the Upholstered Furniture Action Council. Mr. Franklin was elected to the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame.
Mr. Franklin grew up on a small farm and was a public school classmate of Elvis Presley in Tupelo. He served in the U.S. Army, where he commanded the company that protected James Meredith during the integration of the University of Mississippi. He was the Mississippi State Alumnus of the Year, as well as the Itawamba Community College Alumnus of the Year; is past president and board member of CREATE Foundation, the largest community foundation in Mississippi; and is a major supporter of the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, Regional Rehabilitation Center, United Way of Northeast Mississippi and Sanctuary Hospice House. He served as lead director of BancorpSouth, as well as on the boards of the Mississippi Economic Council, North Mississippi Health Services, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal Publishing Co., Journal Publishing Houston, Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi, Community Development Foundation and Community Relations Assn. He has served on the boards of the Mississippi State University Development Foundation and its Athletic Foundation, and the Itawamba Community College Foundation.
The "Henry Ford" of the upholstered furniture industry, Morris Futorian (b.1907 d.1994) emigrated from Russia In 1923 at age 15 and, after a brief fling in Chicago's Yiddish Theater, went to work as an upholsterer in the Glabman factory. By 1935, he began hand-making upholstery at home at night and selling it by day. Inspired by a visit to a Detroit automobile assembly plant, he built a factory In New Albany, MS (naming it Stratford after the Chicago street he lived on). To speed the manufacturing process and take advantage of unskilled labor, Futorian standardized designs and broke the assembly line process down into individual operations.
To ship In record time and keep warehousing and inventory costs low, he shipped only In carload lots. By 1952, he was able to sell Stratford reclining chairs at under $99.00. By 1954, he was supporting three production and two supply factories In Mississippi and two North Carolina factories producing higher-priced BarcaLoungers. In 1964, his companies were acquired by Mohasco Industries with Futorian remaining as president until his retirement in 1981.
Raymond Gerken's (b.1902 d.1984) leadership role in the furniture industry began in 1934 and continued as he successfully led Norwalk Furniture through the depression and World War II.
His major contributions to the industry include: the development in the 1950s of a componentized manufacturing process and factory scheduling system, and his own delivery fleet of trucks that allowed Norwalk to offer consumers more than 100,000 selections in chair and sofa styles and fabrics ... all available in just 30 days. This is a widely adopted industry practice today.
In the early 1960s Gerken pioneered a comprehensive testing program which enabled Norwalk to offer the protection of a fabric warranty as part of its product warranty. Many of the testing methods he developed have been adapted for industry use by the "Joint Industry Fabric Standards Committee."
Gerken pioneered the standardization of rails in upholstered frames so that they could be cut to maximize the yield of frame parts and reduce manufacturing costs.
As president of the National Association of Furniture Manufacturers in 1963-64, he pushed for an industry-wide "Seal of Integrity" program. An endless quest for better manufacturing led to Gerken's development of a conveyorized sewing room where he developed manufacturing technology that is widely used in the industry today.
John R. "Jack" Gerken, Jr., (b.1926 d. 2006), past president and chairman of Norwalk Furniture Corp., represents the third generation of his family to manage the company. Jack joined Norwalk in 1947, following his graduation from Colgate University. Beginning as an industrial engineer, he used his strong intellect, rare vision, and unbridled energy to help Norwalk grow from a regional manufacturer to a formidable national competitor in manufacturing technology, industrial relations, and marketing innovations.
In the 1960s, Jack, with his brother Ned, pioneered the furniture franchising concept. For 23 years the concept was refined and the first franchised store opened in 1987. Since then, the “Norwalk—The Furniture Idea” franchise has grown to a chain of 76 stores with 25 stores currently in development. In 1996, Furniture/Today named the group the second fastest-growing home furnishings retail operation in the United States.
Gerken was the driving force behind developing the International Woodworking Machinery Show and Furniture Supply Fair (IWF). He helped to unite the national and southern furniture manufacturer’s organizations into the American Furniture Manufacturers Association. Jack was prominent in the development of an econometric forecasting model for the home furnishings industry.
He served as a director of AFMA, president of NAFM, and charter board member of IWF and UFAC. He received the IWF Challenge to Change Award in 1984, IHFRA’s Pillar of the Industry Award in 1985, AFMA’s Distinguished Award in 1987, and the S.C. Johnson Wax Centennial Award in 1989.
Robert A. Glick (b.1916 d.1997) was chairman of the board of Glick Furniture Company, the largest furniture retailer in Central Ohio, established in 1907. From sales volume of $1.5 million in 1947, the Columbus, Ohio-based company grew to sales of $41 million in 1995 at seven stores. In December 1995, Glick Furniture Co. was sold to Rhodes Furniture.
Mr. Glick was a member of the National Home Furnishings Association board and severed as president in 1966. He was the first president of the Home Furnishings Council of America for 1968 and chairman of the All Furniture Industry Conference in 1967 in Washington, D.C. Mr. Glick also served on the Board of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants.
Glick Furniture Company and Robert A. Glick, individually, were the recipients of the All American Merchants Furniture Industry Award, Furniture World Award of Merit, Brand Name Furniture Retailer of the Year, Furniture Industry Certificate of Merit, Apollo Award as Outstanding Summer Furniture Merchant, and the Home Furnishings Group of National Retail Merchants Association Creative Merchandising Award. The Ohio Furniture Salesmen's Association recognized Mr. Glick's public awareness and interest in home furnishings. Glick Furniture was listed as one of the 100 Largest Private Companies in Central Ohio.
His many civic and charitable activities included the Salvation Army Board, Better Business Bureau and Urban Renewal Commission, Volunteer of the Decade. Award for his association with Ronald McDonald House.
Robert P. "Bob" Gruenberg (b. 1918 d. 1990) organized the first all-industry Home Furnishings Conference, held in San Francisco in 1967. The conference marked and was based on the first home furnishings Industry market research -- the Stanford University Study. Gruenberg, then executive vice president of the National Home Furnishings Association (NHFA) put together a coalition of industry executives and associations including: the National Association of Furniture Manufacturers, the Southern Furniture Manufacturers Association, the National Home Furnishings Association, the National Association of Bedding Manufacturers, and the Carpet and Rug Institute. This group became the Home Furnishings Council and organized the first attempt at marketing home furnishings nationwide with "Debut 71" and "Debut 73." While he served as general manager of the Southern Furniture Market Center from 1972-1986, Gruenberg was instrumental in guiding the High Point market through economic downturns and challenges until it fulfilled his vision -- to make it the pre-eminent furniture market in the world.
A man of vision, wisdom, discipline and integrity, Howard G. Haas (b. 1924) led Sealy Inc. to unprecedented growth and renown in the home furnishings industry. During his 19-year-tenure as president, CEO and director of Sealy Inc., company revenues increased from $32 million to more than $550 million without the acquisition of a competitor or supplier. Mr. Haas took Sealy’s profits from slightly better than break-even to one of the highest returns in the industry. Because of the strong legacy built through his marketing expertise, Sealy Posturepedic continues to be among the most recognizable brands in the industry.
Mr. Haas integrated a group of 34 independent Sealy licensees into a unified entity, providing efficient services. He developed information technology systems to lower the level of raw materials and reduce the need for finished goods in factories, resulting in the best return on capital in the bedding industry. A committee to oversee manufacturing techniques in all company factories ensured there was no product variation and improved operations to the point that products could be delivered to customers in as little as a single day. His first in-store display showcased Posturepedic bedding and was among the first in the industry to envision the potential of sleep shops. Under Mr. Haas’ leadership, Sealy also was the first bedding company to run national television advertising.
A graduate of the University of Michigan, where he was honored as a Goldstein Scholar, Mr. Haas joined Sealy in 1956 as sales manager. He was promoted to vice president of marketing in 1960 and to president in 1965. His exceptional leadership skills attracted top talent and he instilled in them the pride of being No. 1 and to share best practices. Three that he mentored currently lead Simmons, Sealy and Serta.
After retiring from Sealy in 1986, Mr. Haas joined the faculty of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where he served as an adjunct professor of strategic management. Teaching MBA classes from 1988 to 2009, he specialized in classes on the practice of leadership and strategy in business with a goal “to integrate theory with practice and focus not just on doing things right…but doing the right things.” He organized and taught the university’s first graduate-level course on leadership, which was recognized by CEO Magazine. Among his published work is “The Leader Within,” a book written with Bob Tamarkin, which received wide critical acclaim and was on the best-seller list. Mr. Haas is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Strategic Management Education and a columnist for Fairchild Publications. He also has served as chairman of the board of Sealy Sleep Products Ltd. in Canada and chairman of Broadcast International.
A first lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, Mr. Haas flew more than 50 missions over Axis-occupied Europe, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters. Active in the community, he served as president of the Orchestra of Illinois and on the school board for the Glencoe School System. He also was a member of the Print and Drawing Committee of the Art Institute of Chicago, on the board of directors for the Jewish Children’s Bureau, and a member of the Visiting Committee of Chicago’s Oriental Institute.
Jena Hall, president and chief creative officer of Jena Hall Associates, is a recognized designer and business collaborator in the furniture industry, known for applying her merchandising and marketing savvy to a diverse range of industry projects and categories.
Ms. Hall grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, where she developed her work ethic and passion for beautiful furnishings at an early age through her family’s business. When the Dallas Trade Mart opened in 1957, her father took her out of school so she could go to the furniture market. She launched her own firm, Jena Hall Associates in 1972, specializing in space planning and interior design. High-profile projects have included the House Beautiful Kitchen of the Future and the restoration of the George Vanderbilt Estate on Long Island.
In the 1980s, Ms. Hall entered the field of product development, designing new furniture lines and integrated merchandising and marketing strategies for brands including American Drew, Bassett, Ethan Allen and Pennsylvania House. Her high-end collections for Casa Bique led to the launch of a licensed collection of fully coordinated home furnishings — Jena Hall’s Inspirations from the Old Country for Broyhill Furniture — with thousands of cross-merchandised SKUs covering 22 different product categories. Other licensed and private-label programs were for Nichols & Stone; Johnston Casuals; DMI-Wynwood; Vanguard Furniture; JCPenney; Robb & Stucky; Bloomingdale’s; Macy’s; Bed, Bath & Beyond; Domain; Spiegel; Neiman Marcus; and Horchow.
In late 2003, Ms. Hall joined aspenhome as executive vice president of merchandising and marketing, winning five Pinnacle design awards and developing a brand strategy for aspenhome to become a household name. Since 2010, she has worked with initiatives including the launch of the HGTV HOME brand, where she serves as design curator, and the recent introduction of Bassett’s HGTV collection. As a product designer, Ms. Hall is passionate about bringing features and functions formerly reserved for the interior design trade to the mainstream market. Starting in the 1980s, she has pioneered a mix-and-match approach and furniture solutions with innovative, multifunctional features that are now industry standards.
Ms. Hall was the founding president of WithIt, the women’s leadership and development network, supports the Jena and Stephen Hall Scholarship Fund to support rising home furnishings talent. She has served as National Home Furnishings Board president, co-chairman and on the National Executive Committee for City of Hope. She also gives her time to the Anti-Defamation League, the New York Chapter of the Jewish Federation, the American Society of Furniture Designers, the High Point Market Authority Board and the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library Advisory Board. She has received the WithIt Founders Award and Lifetime Achievement Award, the American Furniture Hall of Fame Industry Fellow and the City of Hope Spirit of Life Award.
For more than 40 years, the mission of Darrell (b. 1943) and Stella (b. 1945) Harris has been to provide a world-class shopping experience for quality home furnishings through a commitment to excellence, and integrity in value and service. Guided by principles of respect, responsibility, trust and empowerment, Furnitureland South has grown from a one-man furniture sales operation to the world’s largest retail home furnishings showplace, an international furniture destination and an industry standard.
In 1969, the business started with just a few catalogs and samples, and one old truck. Mr. Harris sold, delivered and serviced the furniture, while Mrs. Harris handled the administrative duties. In 1977, they purchased their first retail showroom, a 17,000-square-foot store. The company continued to expand, and in 1990 relocated and consolidated all operations from central High Point to their current location on Business I-85. In 1999, Furnitureland South made history with the opening of a 500,000-square-foot store and an iconic world’s tallest highboy on the façade. Today, Furnitureland South boasts 1.3 million square feet of showroom space, representing more than 500 name-brand manufacturers and spanning a broad spectrum of both design and price points. The retailer has shipped approximately $2.7 billion in home furnishings to consumers in the United States and more than 50 countries.
Darrell and Stella Harris have focused on adding value for the consumer and were early pioneers in moving from warehouse-style displays to styled vignettes. As the company has grown, they have added shopping amenities for their customers, including a full-service restaurant, a coffee house, and a shopper’s lounge. They were among the first to add a “green” furniture gallery and to promote sustainable practices.
Philanthropic projects through the years have included the Alzheimer’s Association, American Red Cross, Brenner Children’s Hospital, Greensboro Urban Ministries, Green Street Baptist Church, Habitat for Humanity, High Point Christian Academy, High Point Community Foundation, High Point Open Door Shelter, High Point Women’s Shelter, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Leslie’s House, Meals on Wheels, Christmas Senior Adoption Program, North Carolina Baptist Children’s Home, Operation Angel Tree, Ronald McDonald House, Salvation Army, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Victory Junction Gang Camp, and the Wounded Warrior Project. They post Amber Alerts on their highway signage to help locate missing children and have furnished a home on Extreme Makeover Home Edition.
In 2010, Darrell and Stella Harris were inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame.
A department store cash boy at age 14, in 1885 James Joseph Haverty (b.1849 d.1939) invested $6OO in a 25 x 75-foot Atlanta furniture store that he parlayed into today's $300 million multi-state Haverty Furniture Companies.
The son of Irish immigrants, Haverty learned retailing in Atlanta dry goods stores. Of his early pioneering partnership with Amos Rhodes he said, ''I am proudest of the system which provided every homemaker with an opportunity to obtain beautiful furniture to provide his family with more pleasant surroundings than he could otherwise afford." This was by selling furniture on the installment plan. Attracted by the growing West, he would buy a furniture store, retain the former owner as manager and partial owner and thus assure his heart was in the business. This group became known as "Graduates of Haverty's Management." Privately, he headed the Atlanta Arts Association, as well as President Franklin Roosevelt's Federal Arts Project of the Works Progress Administration for the Atlanta area. In 1936, he was named a Knight of St. Gregory by Pope Pius Xl.
Rawson Haverty, Sr. (1920-2007), the former chairman emeritus and CEO of Havertys Furniture Companies, Inc., graduated from the University of Georgia in 1941 and began working for the family business that his grandfather, J.J. Haverty, started in 1885. He worked in the company’s credit department until 1942, when he was called into active duty as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was honorably discharged in 1945 with the rank of major and received the Bronze Star among other decorations.
Upon his return from war, he rejoined Haverty Furniture Companies in January 1946. He served as secretary, vice president, and treasurer, before becoming president in 1955 and later chairman in 1974. He served until 2000, and was chairman emeritus until 2003.
From an early age, Mr. Haverty worked his way up the ranks of the family business all while bringing about positive change. He was fiercely competitive, tireless and relentless in leading the company’s growth during his tenure. Under his leadership, the name Havertys became synonymous with good value in home furnishings.
Mr. Haverty served as a leader of numerous civic boards and committees, among them, as the chairman of the board of trustees of Saint Joseph’s Hospital from 1972 to 1982, chairman of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) in 1970, president of the University of Georgia Alumni Association from 1973-75, and trustee of the University of Georgia Foundation. He was chairman of the board of Bank South Corp. from 1977 to 1991.
Mr. Haverty was very much devoted to his church. He served as chairman of the first Archdiocesan Finance Committee in 1964, staying on the board for 14 years. He was a longtime supporter of the Village of St. Joseph, which now offers counseling services for adults, families and children. He chaired a 1983 archdiocesan campaign that raised $7.2 million for archdiocesan personal care homes for the elderly, expansion and renovation efforts at St. Pius X High School, and scholarships for inner city Catholic schools. He was recognized as “man of the year” by the archdiocese in 1983. For his service to the Catholic Church and the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Mr. Haverty was named a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory, a papal honor bestowed by Pope John Paul II, in 1990.
Mr. Haverty was inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame in 2005.
Charles Hayworth (b.1913 d.1994) was chief executive officer of Hayworth Industries, Alma Desk Company, Clarendon Industries, Hayworth Roll & Panel, Liberty Veneer, and Myrtle Desk.
He received an Industrial Engineering degree from North Carolina State University, served as an Army Lieutenant in Europe, and returned to the family businesses. He directed the growth of Alma Desk from 1955 to 1988 as it became one of the premier office furniture companies in the nation. The firm’s success is attributed to the adoption of the assembly line techniques, the introduction at a national trade show in Chicago of his “Office Furniture System” that formed workstations and offices, and a progressive marketing program that covered all 50 states.
As a result of his leadership as president and chairman of the Southern Furniture Exposition Building (now IHFC) from 1986 to 1993, it became the preeminent showroom in the world. Many industry leaders also credit his efforts with helping to keep the market in High Point after takeover attempts by Dallas and Atlanta firms. Working with area investors, he was also a factor in bringing the Radisson Hotel to High Point.
Mr. Hayworth served High Point University as vice chairman of the board and worked to establish and support the Home Furnishings Marketing Program in the early 1970’s.
Charles Hayworth and wife, Pauline, received many honors and awards. Their lifetime of service, charitable contributions, and endowments were instrumental in building their industry and community.
Mary Henkel (b.1910 d. 2002) was a lifelong resident of Winchester, Virginia. She studied at the Parsons School of Interior Design in New York and later at Winchester Business School. She, her husband Carroll H. Henkel, and John Harris established the Henkel Harris Co. in 1946. Harris soon sold his share to them, and Mary and "Henk" together persevered to develop their company from a very small start to its present highly respected position in the furniture industry.
Tragically, Carroll died in 1969, leaving Mary to pilot the growing and successful company on her own. By her industry intelligence and "grit," and by meticulously following his principles, she carried it onward to even greater prominence. Their son Bill was able to assume the presidency in 1982 and Mary became chairman of the board.
Mary Henkel was elected to the Board of Directors of the Southern Furniture Manufacturers Association (now AFMA), the first woman to receive such an honor. She has established scholarships for students interested in careers in the furniture industry including the Carroll H. Henkel Memorial Scholarship Fund at North Carolina State University. She is a director of The Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library in High Point.
Mary's sincere desire was that everyone remember that it was her own and Carroll's drive, business ability and will to succeed together that created their company and led to its leading position in the furniture industry today. Any honor bestowed is shared as teammates, best friends and loving partners.
W.G. “Mickey” Holliman, Jr. (b.1937) was named president and chief executive officer of Furniture Brands International in 1996 and chairman of the board in 1998. He began his furniture career at Futorian in 1960 following graduation from Mississippi State University.
In 1970, he co-founded Action Industries, now Lane Furniture Industries, with Alvin E. “Bo” Bland. He was named vice president of Action Industries in 1975 and president and chief executive officer in 1994.
Today, Lane Furniture Industries, a subsidiary of Furniture Brands International, grew to become the largest source of motion furniture and the second-largest source for recliners, as well as a major player in the categories of stationary upholstery and imported case goods. At one time, Furniture Brands International was the largest residential furniture manufacturer in the world.
Mr. Holliman has served on the boards of directors of the International Home Furnishings Center and the American Furniture Manufacturers Association. He serves on both the Development Foundation and the Bulldog Foundation of Mississippi State University and was honored as the school’s Alumnus of the Year in 1998. Additional board seats include BancorpSouth Incorporated, Southern Pipe and Supply, and the chairmanship of North Mississippi Medical Center.
Mickey and his wife, Babs, are active in Harrisburg Baptist Church, where he serves as a deacon and is past chairman of the Finance Committee.
Clyde Hooker, Jr. (b, 1920) joined Hooker Furniture in 1946 following graduation from Virginia Military Institute and four years in the U.S. Air Force, where he served in the European Theatre and was discharged as Captain. He became sales manager in 1956, was elected president in 1960, and named chief executive officer in 1966.
As CEO of Hooker, Mr. Hooker has guided the company to becoming one of America’s most successful manufacturing concerns, with sales increasing from $4 million dollars to more than $164 million. The company has become a leader in developing successful niches such as wall units, bookcases, home office, and home entertainment centers. Under his guidance, Hooker Furniture was always an industry profit leader.
Clyde Hooker contributed generously to our industry, community, and family. He served as chairman of the Dallas Market Center Advisory Board, and as a member of the Advisory Board of the Atlanta Merchandise Mart. He was Director Emeritus of the American Furniture Manufacturers Association and a substantial contributor of time and money to the Home Furnishings Council and the High Point University Furniture Program.
Among the many awards Mr. Hooker received: The Pillar of the Industry Award from IHFRA in 1977; the James T. Ryan Award from AFMA in 1985, and a Distinguished Service Award from the VMI Foundation in 1993. As one colleague put it, “Clyde Hooker has the respect and admiration of his nearly two thousand employees and everyone else who knows him.”
Robert Obediah Huffman (b.1890 d.1978) the son of one of the founders of Drexel-Heritage Furnishings, joined his father at Drexel Knitting Mill directly after graduation from the University of North Carolina. Rob Huffman was chosen president of Phi Beta Kappa for his intellect and tapped for membership in The Golden Fleece for his demonstrated leadership. He became president of Drexel in 1935 and served until 1965. This was a period of growth and expansion as Drexel acquired Heritage Furniture, Morganton Furniture and Southern Desk. Sales grew from $7 million to about $29 million; profits grew from $230,700 to $1.8 million. Drexel became the nation's most highly recognized furniture brand name. Mr. Huffman credited Drexel's success to its employees, saying this esprit de corps was known as "Drexelitis."
He served as president of Drexel Knitting Mills and Huffman Hosiery Company, and as officer and director of several banks, companies and associations.
Sam J. Ervin, Jr., U.S. Senator from North Carolina, said in his introduction of Mr. Huffman to the Newcomen Society in 1963 ... "Rob Huffman is a man in whom a strong and honest mind, a compassionate and courageous heart, and a simple faith in God and man are blended in harmonious proportions. These attributes are exemplified in everything he thinks, says, or does. As a consequence, he is a genial companion, a true friend, a lover of his fellow man, an exemplary citizen, a devoted churchman, a dedicated free enterpriser, an enlightened industrialist, a hard fighter for causes he believes just, and withal a man of many graces, much humility, and a gentle spirit."
In 1956, Don Hunziker (b.1927 d. 2001) began a successful business career with the David M. Lea Furniture Company in Richmond, Virginia. In 1981, Hunziker, president of Lea, along with a number of other management personnel, bought Lea Industries, American Drew, and Daystrom Furniture, forming the corporate acronym LADD. They faced a serious recession, business that was on the skids, and a prime bank rate of 22%, putting their futures at risk.
Under Hunziker’s leadership and direction, LADD become one of the largest furniture manufacturers in the country with estimated 1999 sales of over $600 million and 6,600 employees.
As president of the Furniture Factories Manufacturing Association, Hunziker supported consolidation and maintenance of the furniture market in High Point; promoted the market domestically and internationally; and strengthened travel and hospitality resources. He was chairman and director of the International Woodworking Machinery and Furniture Supply Fair, secretary and director of the Furniture Foundation, Inc., on the High Point University Home Furnishings Board, the Advisory Board of the Atlanta Market Center, and the Board of Governors for the Dallas and Atlanta markets.
Hunziker served as president of SFMA and is a director emeritus of AFMA. He was named Alumnus of the Year by Virginia Commonwealth University, Chief Executive of the Year by Financial World Magazine in 1988, and received the Distinguished Service Award from the American Furniture Manufacturers Association.
Leo Jiranek (b.1900 d.1990 was known as the ''Dean of Furniture Designers," one of the Industry's first, and unrepentant freelancers, who enjoyed 67 years in the business.
Throughout his career, Jiranek contributed to more furniture companies than any other known designer, among them Magnavox, Thomasville, Ethan Allen, Kroehler, Heywood Wakefleld, The Lane Co., Bassett, Broyhill and Garrison. Born in Grand Rapids, a graduate engineer from Princeton, he was a past president and honorary lifetime member of the Grand Rapids Furniture Designers Association. He founded, wrote the constitution, and served as first president of the American Designers Institute (now Industrial Designers Society of America).
In the 196's, he founded and was president of the Jiranek School of Furniture Design and Technology in NYC which boasts many distinguished alumni. Known for his command, not only of technology and design but also marketing and merchandising acumen, he brought great subtleties to mass manufacture. Jiranek was awarded the degree of Doctor of Arts by Kendall College of Art & Design in 1984.
A founder of Senco Products, Inc., Albert Juilfs (b.1891 d.1970) was truly an inventive genius and pioneer. He built the industry’s first fully automatic pneumatic upholstery stapling tool. Replacing the manual tack hammer, the pneumatic stapler cut training time from months to days, increased productivity, lowered labor costs, and reduced the problem of finding skilled craftsmen. The industry no longer had to rely on, or be limited by, the skill of the “tack spitter.” Perhaps the major benefit to business from this tool was the ability to raise quality standards.
As Juilfs developed new fastening technology and processes, larger and more powerful tools were introduced for nearly every furniture and case goods workstation. During a lifetime that saw him acquire almost 100 patents, he made an immense impact on the furniture industry. Through his ingenuity, Juilfs led the industry to realize the significant increases in productivity needed to keep United States furniture competitive in the world market.
To recognize the important contributions of Al Juilfs, look in any furniture manufacturer’s shop, no matter the size, at the assortment of air-powered fastening tools.
Juilfs retired as Senco president in 1966 and stayed active in the company as chairman of the board emeritus. He affiliated Senco with the International Forster Parents Plan. Research fellowships in wood construction were established by Juilfs at Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
Farooq Kathwari (b. 1944) has been the driving force behind Ethan Allen, a leading manufacturer and retailer of high quality home furnishings and interior design services. As president, chairman and CEO, his distinguished leadership is further demonstrated through his service to the industry, the community and the world.
Mr. Kathwari came to the U.S. from his native Kashmir as a student at age 21. He worked at a printing company while earning his MBA in international marketing from New York University. On the side, he sold hand-crafted decorative accessories from Kashmir. In 1973, Mr. Kathwari and Ethan Allen formed a joint venture company to develop home accessories. The company merged with Ethan Allen in 1980. Mr. Kathwari became president in 1985 and chairman and CEO in 1988. In 1989, he led a management buyout of Ethan Allen and took the company public in 1993.
Under his leadership, Ethan Allen has become a trend-setting, award-winning leader in home furnishings and interior design offering a full-range of furniture and decorative accessories through a network of 290 design centers in the U.S. and abroad. Of those, 159 are company-owned. Ethan Allen operates eight manufacturing facilities, including two sawmills, in the U.S. and one in Mexico. In 2008, Ethan Allen opened its flagship Design Center in Manhattan, and in 2009, launched Ethan Allen Contract.
Throughout his career, Mr. Kathwari has diligently served the home furnishings industry, as well as many humanitarian causes.
David Kendall (b.1851 d. 1910), the Dean of American Furniture Designers, had both a direct and indirect impact on the history of American furniture in design, manufacturability, and marketability. He initiated the education of young, much needed professionals for the industry. Kendall also had a role in manufacturing and in the establishment of Phoenix Furniture Co. in Grand Rapids.
His McKinley chair is said to be the genesis of modern Arts and Crafts Furniture. He is also credited with inventing the Morris chair and for developing the first revolving and reclining office chair.
Kendall became the most widely-copied designer in the United States for 25 years. His development of wood stains and finishes was prompted in part by the scarcity of walnut. They included Antique Oak, Sixteenth Century Early English, Cremona Malachite, and Jacobean finishes. His creations became industry standards.
Grand Rapids’ Kendall College of Art and Design, founded in his honor, was established in 1928. The college continues to answer the continuing need for industry design professionals. Over 90% of the members of the American Society of Furniture Designers (ASFD) are Kendall College graduates.
David Kendall established his credentials as “The Dean of American Designers” a century ago. His research, inventions, manufacturing, and marketing skills directly contributed to the development, growth, strength, and economic health of the American furniture industry.
J. Wade Kincaid (b1910 d1991), was a quiet, perceptive, thoughtful gentleman, devoted to his wife and family, and proud of the company that bore his name.
He began in the factory early in life at Caldwell Furniture Company working with his father. He left school after tenth grade and worked through a series of jobs of increasing responsibility with several companies.
In 1946, he and his father built a small factory, making solid wood cedar chests and wardrobes. They continually put the profits back into the business so that it grew steadily. Even as the company expanded into bedroom and occasional furniture, Kincaid remained faithful to its specialty of solid wood construction.
Beginning in 1958, his company became one of the first in our industry to operate its own fleet of trucks to assure prompt, safe delivery of undamaged products. Most furniture manufacturers today follow this pattern.
The company, still under the guidance of Wade Kincaid, went public with an offering of stock in 1983. In 1988, it became a subsidiary of La-Z-Boy Chair Company and is today the nation's largest manufacturer of solid wood furniture. Everyone who knew Wade Kincaid cherishes his memory, and the industry still feels his presence.
Over the course of 40 years, Steve Kincaid (b. 1948) has built a successful career and excellent reputation in the furniture industry based on integrity, leadership and innovation. As president of Kincaid Furniture Company and La-Z-Boy Casegoods, he has steered both companies to the forefront of the global economy. His business success is matched by his dedicated service to both the industry and the community.
Mr. Kincaid began his career in 1970 as a sales representative for Kincaid Furniture, the company founded by his father in 1946. He advanced through the ranks to the position of president in 1983, the same year Kincaid went public. Building on his father’s success, Mr. Kincaid brought a strong vision for marketing the brand and growing market share, and today Kincaid is a leading manufacturer of solid wood furniture. In 1987, La-Z-Boy purchased Kincaid, and in 2003, Mr. Kincaid was named senior vice president of La-Z-Boy Inc. and president of La-Z-Boy Casegoods, which includes Lea Youth Furniture, Hammary, and American Drew. Kincaid was one of the first companies to partner with a national organization when it introduced the Ducks Unlimited Collection in the mid 90s. Manufacturing both at home and abroad, Mr. Kincaid has led the companies through a pivotal juncture in the industry without losing touch with his roots. He often walks through the Kincaid factory, calling employees by name and recalling events in their lives.
Mr. Kincaid, who leads by example, brings an abiding commitment to serving the home furnishings industry. He is past president and current board member of the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA), and was honored with the AHFA Distinguished Service Award. He is past president and current board member of the American Furniture Hall of Fame Foundation and past chairman and current board member of the High Point Market Authority. Mr. Kincaid also serves on the boards of the American Furniture Foundation, the International Woodworking Fair and the International Home Furnishings Center Advisory Board.
His devotion to service extends to the community, as well. He has served on the boards of the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina, Caldwell Memorial Hospital, the Caldwell Memorial Hospital Foundation, Smart Start/Communities in Schools and Wachovia Bank in Lenoir. He also served in the N.C. National Guard. He is a recipient of the prestigious City of Hope Spirit of Life Award, as well as the Central Carolina Bank “Golden Apple Award.”
Spencer Colie Kittinger (b.1901 d.1968) served as Kittinger president from 1941 to 1966 during a period of growth and innovation. His history with the company and the industry began in 1917 when he graduated from Lehigh University and started full time with the company.
The name Kittinger became a legend in the furniture industry for high-quality reproductions of English and American antiques. The company is well known as the only authorized manufacturer of the furniture of Colonial Williamsburg for 54 years. They also had an exclusive appointment to make Newport Reproductions. In the 1960s, the White House commissioned Kittinger to furnish several rooms in the West Wing, among them the President’s huge conference room. The massive conference tables and chairs are still in use. During this growth period, they began to design and produce for the office. With a constant backlog of orders, their dollar volume was at that time in the range of $4.5 million.
Spencer adopted his father’s motto: “Our business is not primarily to turn furniture into money but to produce something really worthwhile and to serve well.”
Spencer Kittinger spent half a century as a leader in innovation, design excellence, and maintenance of the highest quality standards. His goals, plus his knowledge and experience, helped to raise the performance levels of the entire industry.
The son of La-Z-Boy co-founder, Edward M. Knabusch, Charles (b.1939 d.1997) began working in the Monroe Payroll Department in 1961. He received his degree in Business Administration and Corporate Law from Cleary College in 1964. In 1965, he rejoined the company and held several positions until becoming President in August of 1972, succeeding his father. During his tenure, the company completed a series of acquisitions and mergers and consistently outperformed industry growth averages. He was named Chairman of La-Z-Boy in 1985.
After assuming the CEO post in 1985, Mr. Knabusch improved La-Z-Boy's sales to more than $1 billion annually from $52.7 million when he began his reign. Under his direction, La-Z-Boy became the largest upholstered furniture manufacturer in the U.S., and the world's largest producer of reclining chairs.
Charles held various furniture industry posts, including several years of service with the AFMA and its forerunners. He was on the original AFHF board of directors and was one of the organization’s first supporters. In 1994 he was named among the nation's ten outstanding business leaders by Northwood University and in 1996, the governor of Michigan, John Engler, appointed him as a public representative to the Michigan National Resources Trust Fund.
The La-Z-Boy Museum & Archives was established in 1984 by Charles T. Knabusch. Located in the original structure built in 1927 by company co-founders, Edward M. Knabusch and Edwin J. Shoemaker, displays include 40 reclining chairs and other products representing a broad range of product history and evolution, and several items made by the founders before the invention and introduction of the famous recliners.
Edward M. Knabusch (b.1900 d.1988) began making doll furniture in his garage and soon converted to porch furniture, developing an adjustable chair which he sold retail through a store he opened with his cousin Edward Shoemaker.
When a buyer suggested upholstering the adjustable wood chair, the cousins built their own plant in Monroe, Mich., to produce the first recliners. It was the launch of an entirely new industry, as well as of the now $500 million La-Z-Boy Chair Co. He was an innovator who conveyorized early and invented tools and mechanisms for motion furniture. An outstanding marketing man, in a relatively short time he changed La-Z-Boy from an unknown phrase to a nationally recognized household name.
He initiated one of the industry’s first employee benefit programs, and was also a man of his community, dedicating considerable time as well as funds to the YMCA, Mercy Hospital, housing for seniors and the handicapped, as well as his church.
Born one of 13 children on a farm in Mound Prairie, Minn., Peter Kroehler (b.1872 d.1950) put himself through summer school, night school and the Commercial Academy of Northwestern College, where he was hired by a Naperville group to help run a small furniture business called the Naperville Lounge Co. There he kept books, called on customers, and delivered products to the railroad station. By the time It became the Kroehler Co., he had developed and sold hand-tufted "Turkish Couches" (6 for $25); invented and patented davenport bed fixtures with hidden mattress and springs (the earliest dual-purpose furniture); introduced a piecemeal system giving employees the opportunity to earn more money while controlling costs. Kroehler also introduced national advertising and premium tie-ins (sofas and triple plated teapots).
Organizer and first president of the National Association of Furniture Manufacturers, he also organized the American Furniture Man and Furniture Club of America. A man of deep compassion, he was one of the original founders of the Naperville YMCA.
In 1912, at age 21, Edward Hudson Lane (b.1891 d.1973) bought a small Altavista, VA packing box plant at a bankruptcy auction, hired five employees and began producing 10 to 15 cedar chests a day. By 1922, the factory was capable of national distribution and Lane invested in the industry's first national advertising. Within 10 years, Lane cedar chests were a widely recognized brand name synonymous with "brides." An Industry pioneer, he was among the first to adopt conveyorized assembly lines as well as technology that utilized waste wood to produce particle board which provided strong, uniform, warp-resistant, cores. On the occasion of the company's 50th anniversary in 1962, Lane was honored by the American Newcomen Society for his "pioneering leadership, vision, determination and resourcefulness in creating a new business and building it into a successful corporate enterprise." At the time of his death in 1973, the enterprise employed over 5,000 people in 19 plants in Virginia, North Carolina, Mississippi and Tennessee.
From his start as a sales trainee to his rise to CEO, Bruce Lauritsen (b. 1942 d. 2007) embodied the qualities of a true leader. A graduate from Creighton University, Mr. Lauritsen was an officer in the U.S. Army, became an Airborne Ranger, and served in Vietnam. He joined Flexsteel Industries Inc. in 1968 as a sales trainee. He served as regional sales manager, Midwest sales manager, national sales manager, vice president of sales and executive vice president of sales before becoming president in 1989 and chief executive officer in 1993. Flexsteel’s revenues grew from $19.9 million in 1968 to $172 million in 1989 to $425 million in 2007. Mr. Lauritsen recognized the value of independent dealers and used the Flexsteel brand to support the independent store brand. He launched Flexsteel’s first in-store gallery in 1984; today there are more than 600 Flexsteel Signature galleries.
Under Mr. Lauritsen’s leadership, Flexsteel became a major competitor in the residential upholstery industry, and in contract and vehicle seating. After acquiring DMI Furniture, Flexsteel gained entry into wood furniture and global sourcing. He helped Flexsteel develop its proprietary blue-watch steel spring unit into many uses, thus diversifying Flexsteel and creating new opportunities for the company. He also developed regional factories to better serve retailers and reduce transportation costs. Throughout Mr. Lauritsen’s career, he practiced the highest ethics with his employees, customers, suppliers and competitors.
Henry Talmadge Link (b.1889 d.1983) had been a banker in Lexington, N.C., and New York before he organized Dixie Furniture Company in 1936 with 90 employees. In 1940, after visits to automobile factories in Detroit, he equipped Dixie Furniture Company with motorized conveyors. This introduced the industry to mass production, which changed the way furniture assembly lines moved the product through the plant.
His first introduction was a five-piece mahogany suite which, with a few minor changes and additions, was still in the product line as late as 1986. One million pieces had been manufactured by 1960.
A man of great business acumen, he early associated himself with his nephew, J. Smith Young, and son-in-law, E. Bruce Hinkle. Link-Taylor, a model factory, was built in 1949-50. Young-Hinkle started in 1962, Dixie-Linwood was built in 1972, and Wicker by Henry Link began in 1984.
For nearly half a century, Mr. Link was the man at the helm, and Dixie grew and spread to become the largest manufacturer of bedroom furniture in the world. A man of vision, Henry Link accompanied then governor of North Carolina, Luther Hodges, to Europe in the 1950s in search of business for the furniture industry.
“We have had many fine men in the industrial life of Lexington, N.C., but we have not produced any greater than Henry T. Link…his business achievements, moral influence, philanthropy, and community leadership…make his life a hallmark of success.” (L.A. Martin, News Historian) He was inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame in 1998.
Joanna C. Maitland (b. 1919 d. 2009), president of Joanna Maitland Associates, was active in the furniture industry for 25 years. A former director of consumer affairs of the Sperry and Hutchinson Company, parent of eight furniture companies, she became an early advocate to identify consumer furniture wants and needs and to increase market share by educating them.
While at S&H, Maitland became director of communications for the UFAC, Upholstered Furniture Action Council--the voluntary flammability industry program. For the next 25 years she developed programs, materials, and organized semi-annual mart press breakfasts.
She served as managing director of the American Furniture Hall of Fame from 1991 to 2006, overseeing exhibits, archives, print, and video production.
Andrew Major (b.1931 d. 2004), former president of Collins and Aikman Decorative Fabrics group, presided over the world’s leading fabric group consisting of Mastercraft Fabrics, C&A Home Fabrics, C&A Velvets, Mastercraft Contract, Doblin Fabrics, Greeff, and Warner Fabrics. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, where he was a decorated combat veteran, he joined Mastercraft Corporation in 1946, became president in 1960 and assumed ownership in 1969. He was responsible for the company’s meteoric rise. A one point, Collins and Aikman provided employment for 3,000 with annual sales in excess of $350 million.
One of the first in the textile industry to recognize the necessity of continued modernization of facilities and equipment, Mr. Major recognized that for a company to be successful, it had to dominate its competition in the areas of product development, technology, innovation, styling, and quality. In an industry that had very limited choices, the decorative fabrics group produced over 2,000 fabrics annually.
Andrew Major was a preeminent textile pioneer. Under his leadership, Mastercraft and the C&A Decorative Fabrics Group held the largest installation of jacquard-design computers in the world. This technology moved jacquards from a small niche to the largest segment of the market. At his retirement in 1994, in recognition of his 48 years of service, the original Mastercraft plant was renamed The Andrew Major Plant. His retirement was short-lived. When asked by Cone Mills to start a new jacquard mill, Cone Jacquard sales reached $60 million in a three-year period.
Hyman Meyers (b.1911 d. 2010), along with his brother, Sidney, and brother-in-law, Nathaniel Krumbein, pioneered the business strategies and philosophies that guided Heilig- Meyers in becoming one of the most successful publicly held retail furniture companies in the United States. Heilig-Meyers was founded in 1913 by Hyman's father, J. M. and his uncle, W. A. Heilig. In 1934, Hyman became manager of the Wilson, NC store. After receiving the Bronze Star Medal as an Air Force Captain during World War II, he returned to Heilig-Meyers in 1946 as the company's general manager. In 1951, Heilig-Meyers moved its headquarters to Richmond, VA, and in 1965, Mr. Meyers became president of the company.
Under Mr. Meyers’ guidance, Heilig-Meyers became a public company in 1972, and in 1983, Heilig-Meyers' stock was listed for trading on the New York Stock Exchange. He served as chairman of the Board and chief executive officer until he retired from active employment with the company in 1984, but continued to serve as a member of the board of directors. When Mr. Meyers became president in 1965, sales were approximately $5.3 million with 14 stores. In 1993, sales were approximately $549.7 million with 425 stores.
Mr. Meyers was actively involved with various industry related organizations throughout his career. He served on the boards of the National Retail Furniture Association and the Southern Retail Furniture Association (now the North American Home Furnishings Association and the Southern Home Furnishings Association). He also served as president of NRFA, and in 1969, he received the prestigious John Willis, Jr. Award of Merit.
The son of a cabinetmaker, Pasquale Natuzzi (b.1940) opened his first workshop at age 19 in Taranto, Italy, producing sofas and armchairs. Today, Mr. Natuzzi is founder, chairman and chief designer of the Natuzzi Group, the world’s leading producer of leather sofas and Italy’s largest furniture manufacturer. Mr. Natuzzi founded the company in 1972 in Italy.
In the early 1980s, during a trip to the United States, Mr. Natuzzi transformed the industry by democratizing the leather sofa. A product once reserved for the elite, Natuzzi made it available to the masses by offering a quality leather sofa for just $999 at Macy’s. In 1985, Mr. Natuzzi established Natuzzi Upholstery Inc. in New York to meet the growing demand for leather furniture by North American clients. The company’s success in the U.S., inspired Natuzzi to conquer other markets in both Europe and the Far East. In 1998, the company solidified its American commitment by commissioning architect Mario Bellini to create a state-of-the-art showroom and office building in High Point, N.C., for Natuzzi Americas. The Natuzzi Group also launched a franchising chain, Divani & Divani by Natuzzi, which currently includes 278 Natuzzi stores and 605 Natuzzi galleries worldwide.
With revenues of 634.4 million Euros and more than 8,000 employees, the Natuzzi Group today operates 12 factories worldwide, including seven in Italy. Mr. Natuzzi’s commitment to investing in product research and innovation, marketing, communication and professional staff training have driven the company’s success. His dedication to the growth of the company, its collaborators and the region was recognized when he received an honorary degree in Education Science from Italy’s University of Bari in 2001.
Mr. Natuzzi also is active in the community as a sponsor of Race for the Cure, a short marathon organized by Komen Italia Onlus to raise funds to fight breast cancer. To make waiting rooms more comfortable for families, Mr. Natuzzi has furnished the hall of Centro Clinico Nemo, a hospital in Milan dedicated to the care of those with muscular dystrophy. He also is active in a city planning project to revitalize Santeramo and make it a better place for children to grow.
Furniture industry pioneer Patrick H. Norton (b. 1922 d. 2008) was 17 years old when he got a job loading furniture onto trucks at a department store in St. Louis. In 1940, he joined the Army Air Corps, serving for five years during World War II. During 1961, he became a sales representative and subsequently joined manufacturer Baumritter & Co., which later became Ethan Allen. He moved up the corporate ladder and was named vice president of sales. In the 1960s, he and Nat Ancell pioneered the industry's first chain of stores dedicated to a single brand, Ethan Allen. The single-brand store was a novel concept in those days and many companies have learned from and followed this concept.
In 1981, Mr. Norton left Ethan Allen to join La-Z-Boy as senior vice president of sales and marketing. He was named chairman of the board in 1997. He retired as chairman of La-Z-Boy in 2006 at the age of 84 and remained chairman emeritus until his death.
Norton was instrumental in the company’s evolution from a chair specialist into a whole-home resource and in establishing its distribution system and store network. La-Z-Boy's sales grew from $156 million in 1980 to peak at just under $2.3 billion in 2001. He is widely credited with transforming the company by building its brand, widening its product offering and distribution system and establishing the La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries® store system.
An avid industry supporter, Norton served on the board of the American Furniture Manufacturers Association and on the liaison committee with the National Home Furnishings Association. As the first Home Furnishings Council chairman, he worked to unite retailers, manufacturers and suppliers. His honors included the Distinguished Service Award from the American Furniture Manufacturers Association, the National Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, as well as the Spirit of Life Award from the City of Hope. Norton received an honorary doctorate from High Point University where, in 2000, the school named its Furniture Studies Hall, Norton Hall. Additionally, in 1992, members of the La-Z-Boy “extended family,” including sales representatives and dealers, established, in his honor, the Patrick H. Norton Scholarship Fund at the University.
Mr. Norton was inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame in 1995.
Working his way up from sales representative to president of two leading furniture companies, Kevin O’Connor (b. 1945) launched Legacy Classic Furniture in 1999. Partnering with Samuel Kuo of Samson Holding, Mr. O’Connor developed a new business model for Legacy that enabled customers to mix a variety of products and styles on a direct-container basis with door-to-door service from China, backed by a domestic warehouse for “fill-in purchases” and parts. This revolutionary plan enables independent retailers to affordably source smaller quantities of imported products and has been widely adopted by other companies throughout the industry.
Mr. O’Connor started his career in 1969 as a sales representative with Ethan Allen. He served as vice president of sales for Singer, Burlington and Lea Inds., before joining importer Hyundai Furniture as president in the 1980s, where he was deeply involved in product development. In 1993, he was named president of Master Design, growing the company’s sales from $50 million to $100 million in five years. In 2006 Mr. O’Connor was appointed president and CEO of Samson Marketing, which includes Legacy Classic and Universal Furniture. Its business model for stocking inventory in automated storage and retrieval system warehouses in China and High Point, N.C. has enabled Legacy to grow to more than $200 million in annual sales in less than 10 years.
With a long track record of service to the furniture industry, he has served as chairman of the High Point Market Authority since 2007 as well as serving through the years on the boards and committees of the American Furniture Hall of Fame, the American Home Furnishings Alliance and the High Point Chamber of Commerce. In an effort to strengthen the High Point Market, Mr. O’Connor was instrumental in leading a group of 20-plus manufacturers in reinvigorating Premarket, providing top retailers a preview prior to the formal market debut. Mr. O’Connor has been honored with the Jerry Ganz Memorial Award from the Greater New York Home Furnishings Assn., the City of Hope Spirit of Life Award and the Pillar of the Industry Award from the International Home Furnishings Representatives Association.
Mr. O’Connor has made time to mentor many young executives, who note that his keen eye for design and his deep understanding of production make him a great “sounding board” for his teams. He is viewed by colleagues and competitors alike as a person of high moral character, working with great passion and commitment.
In addition to his church, St. Pius X, and Seton Hall University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1968, he is a longtime champion of the City of Hope, serving on the board and as chair for the 2012 Spirit of Life Dinner. The O’Connor family supports the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Raleigh, N.C., and he has served as a volunteer with the Senior PGA tournament in Kiawah, South Carolina, and the Wyndham Championship at the Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C.
Earl Phillips (b.1897 d.1975) was an entrepreneur who saw the potential of the home furnishings industry and, over a 50-year career, founded companies offering upholstery fabric, polyurethane foam, springs, financing, and showroom facilities.
After college at Washington and Lee University and William and Mary College, Phillips joined DuPont as a sales representative for the state of Virginia. In 1932, he moved to High Point, and with his uncle W. Stanley Davis, founded Phillips Davis, Inc. This fabric converting and sales company grew to become Phillips Mills, which included a fabric weaving mill in Monroe, N.C., and a velvet mill in Jamestown, N.C.
Phillips co-founded Phillips Foscue Corporation in 1957, Factors, Inc., a financial services provider, was started in 1958, and First Factors in 1972. Seeing the need for showroom and hotel space for the growing Southern Furniture Market, he, with others, was instrumental in the development of the Furniture Plaza Showroom Building and the adjacent Holiday Inn.
Phillips also enjoyed business endeavors “related to the industry” and was founding chairman of the world-renowned Hatteras Yacht Company and the String & Splinter Club, a High Point community institution. He served as Mayor of High Point from 1945 to 1949 and endowed the Phillips School of Business at High Point University in 1965.
Known as an industry statesman, Hampton Powell’s (b.1911 d.1994) distinguished career spanned more than 56 years of tireless service to the furniture industry. He moved up steadily in the Lane organization, becoming president in 1956 and chairman in 1976.
Under his leadership, the company became a diversified manufacturer, expanding into broad product lines and acquiring upholstered furniture manufacturers whose company names and product quality complemented Lane’s case good lines.
He made himself a leader within the furniture manufacturing family, serving on the board of the Southern Furniture Manufacturers Association for many years and shouldering numerous responsibilities on behalf of the industry.
It was “Hamp” who was most often chosen to represent furniture manufacturers in Washington, D.C. where he pleaded our cause with patience, persistence, and persuasiveness. His indefatigable efforts as chairman of the association’s Government Relations Committee addressed industry concerns such as upholstered furniture flammability regulations and wood dust regulations.
He received the James T. Ryan award for outstanding service to the industry in 1974. In 1987, he was honored by UFAC with the “Dali” Award as “Industry Champion” for his efforts to avoid costly federal flammability regulations.
Noted for his seven-day work weeks at his company, Powell still found time to serve his community, his church, and the furniture industry. His constant quest for excellence at all levels of endeavor set a standard for quality that will endure.
Amos Giles Rhodes (b.1850 d.1928) founded the Rhodes Furniture Group. He first arrived in war ravaged Atlanta in 1875 with total capital of $75 in cash, a gold watch, and a horse and buggy. He considered himself lucky because many people had much less.
He began to manufacture and sell picture frames. Although people wanted to buy them, they had little money. So he adapted his selling technique to fit the prevailing economic conditions and created a market among the poor. Rather than grant straight credit, he agreed to a small weekly payment and combined collection routes with his selling routes. The plan was an instant success and buying on the installment plan was born.
He then moved into home furnishings with the first Rhodes furniture store opening in the fall of 1875. From this simple but ingenious beginning, Rhodes Furniture has grown to a 75 unit chain of stores in ten Southeastern states. The stores' continuing acceptance and growth is due in no small part to practicing the principles established by Mr. Rhodes: give the public reliability, service and quality.
Rhodes established the A.G. Rhodes Home for older people, which still exists. He strongly supported numerous civic and charitable organizations and was a strong supporter of the Christian Church in Atlanta.
For more information on Amos Giles Rhodes, visit http://www.rhodeshall.org
When Joseph E. Richardson II (b.1929) joined the fifth generation family business, Richardson Brothers Company, in the early 1950s, it was Wisconsin's leading manufacturer of dining room seating. Joe II became president in 1962. His degree in economics from Beloit College was an asset as he began a long-range plan to diversify product and to distribute nationwide.
Joe Richardson became famous for his national ads which showed him proudly standing on an inverted dining room chair...a testimony to the quality of Richardson furniture.
He became an effective leader of the industry beginning in 1984 with his election to the Board of Directors of the American Furniture Manufacturers Association. During the next decade, he served as president and chairman of AFMA.
Joe Richardson II is a past trustee of the Jiranek School of Furniture Design and past executive committee member of the Home Furnishings Council during its formative years. His contributions and strengths as a founding director of the American Furniture Hall of Fame, president, and secretary treasurer were developed during his award-winning civic work in historic preservation of buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Joe II received the "Pillar of Industry Award" in 1995 from the International Home Furnishings Representatives Association.
Gene Rosenberg (b.1935), a founder of Bob’s Discount Furniture and Planned Furniture Promotions, and a partner in the revival of Boyles Furniture, has combined hard work and perseverance with his love for the furniture industry. He cofounded Gene Rosenberg Associations (GRA), now called Planned Furniture Promotions, the country’s largest furniture promotion firm. He also cofounded Bob’s Discount Furniture, growing the chain to the 15th-largest U.S. furniture retailer with sales of $685 million.
The epitome of the “self-made” man, Mr. Rosenberg grew up in a modest apartment above his parents’ grocery store in Hartford, Conn. He started his furniture career as a bookkeeper in a local furniture store, earning $40 a week, and was soon promoted to store manager. Leo Kaufman, the father of his future business partner, told Mr. Rosenberg about an appliance store named Norman’s that needed his help. Within three years, annual sales grew to more than $3 million.
In 1962, Mr. Rosenberg and Paul Cohen started Gene Rosenberg Associates. Over the past 50 years, GRA has assisted more than 6,000 retailers with high-impact sales that have enabled them to survive, reorganize or close without extensive debt.
In 1991, Mr. Rosenberg and Bob Kaufman purchased a five-store waterbed chain, transforming it into a retail store offering high-quality furniture at affordable prices in a friendly atmosphere. Today, Bob’s Discount Furniture consists of 43 stores located from New England to Virginia, with sales of nearly $700 million. When 70 percent of the company was sold in 2005 to an investment group, Mr. Rosenberg continued as a major stockholder and as an active board member. Recently, he and his partners re-launched the Boyles retail brand in North Carolina.
An active contributor to his community, Mr. Rosenberg enjoys helping those in need. He founded Camp Rising.
An early developer of sleep sofa mechanisms, Lawrence Schnadig (b.1908 d. 1997) was also among the first upholstery manufacturers to establish an in-house quality control laboratory which later led to industry quality performance standards. He served his industry well during crisis times as president of the National Association of Furniture Manufacturers.
In the 1940s and during World War II, Mr. Schnadig served as head of the Consumer Durables Division of the War Production Board. In the post-war years, with Sears as a partner, he acquired half interest In International Furniture Company and Karpen, eventually buying out the retail giant and establishing the Schnadig Corporation of today. At age 80, he could be found overseeing production on the floor of one of Schnadig's upholstered furniture plants. He served on the Board of Governors of Chicago's American Furniture Mart and as head of its Marketing Committee, responsible for establishing furniture market dates.
Morton Seaman (b.1932), vice chairman of Rooms To Go, started his career in his father Julie’s store in Brooklyn. After his father died in 1954, Morty went on to build Seaman’s into one of the largest furniture retailers in the northeast, with 30 stores and annual sales of $290 million.
His outside-the-box thinking created business models and methodologies. He practiced vertical integration, acquiring real estate and manufacturing and in-house merchandising, advertising and sales programs. He excelled at generating desire and passion in the purchasing experience by creating advertising that would imprint Seaman’s on his customers’ minds and hearts. Mr. Seaman, an exciting teacher of the “art of retailing,” has influenced many people in the industry.
The most singular talent at the helm of Seaman’s was expanding the package concept and displaying rooms of furniture along with accessories for the consumer to buy at one price. When he sold Seaman’s in 1988, Morty Seaman became his son Jeffrey’s mentor and partner in establishing the next generation’s new concept in furniture, Rooms To Go. Today, RTG, with 90 stores doing more than $1.25 billion in annual sales, is the largest furniture retailer in the United States.
Morty and wife Lois, son Jeff, and daughter Jill are deeply into philanthropic activities. An avid and highly competitive fisherman, he holds the world’s record for Atlantic Salmon.
With a simple good idea, a strong work ethic, and a high level of integrity, Gordon Segal (b. 1938) and his wife, Carole, built Crate and Barrel into an internationally renowned home furnishings business. From one store in Chicago to over 100 stores in the United States, Canada and Dubai, Crate and Barrel today employs more than 7,000 associates and supports a vendor network of over 1,100 companies.
In 1962, fresh out of college, the Segals decided the affordable, well-designed tableware they had seen abroad should be available in the United States. They borrowed $17,000 and opened their first store in an abandoned elevator factory in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood. With the arrival of their first shipment from Europe and little cash to spare, the Segals displayed their wares on the crates and barrels in which they arrived, inspiring both the store name and its distinctive concept. Ever an innovator, Crate and Barrel was one of the first companies to buy directly from factories in Europe. Mr. Segal also introduced a new method of visual and product merchandising, first to housewares and then to furniture, which the company added in 1989 with the same meticulous attention to design integrity.
The company is known for creating a unique class and style of furniture that has been emulated throughout the industry and has even been referred to as “the Crate and Barrel look”. For decades, it has been ranked as one of the top 20 furniture stores and one of the nation’s top three housewares specialty stores.
Mr. Segal focused on slow growth and promoting associates from within. A key component to his success is the example he set for his employees, which inspired his team to work passionately and honestly, while providing the highest level of customer service. Mr. Segal believes continuity builds trust, thus Crate and Barrel is committed to standing behind its product and service.
A former chairman of the National Retail Federation, Mr. Segal was inducted into the World Retail Congress’ Hall of Fame in 2007. Other awards include the Retailing Hall of Fame at Texas A & M, the Cooper-Hewitt’s Design Patron Award, House Beautiful magazine’s Giant of Design designation, and the National Retail Federation Gold Medal Award. He also is scheduled to judge at the NFTE Citywide Business Plan Competition.
His philanthropic projects include the establishment of the Segal Design Institute at Northwestern University, where he serves as a trustee. Service on other boards includes The Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Chicago Medical Center, the Chicago History Museum, Window to the World Communications Inc., and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Mr. Segal also has mentored many young entrepreneurs through the years and frequently speaks to students at Northwestern and local high schools.
As co-founder of La-Z-Boy Chair Company, Edwin Shoemaker (b.1907 d.1998) provided the engineering expertise that evolved into the world famous La-Z-Boy chair. Back in 1927 when he and his cousin, Edward M. Knabusch, borrowed the money to start the business, no one could have imagined the heights to which the motion chair business has rise.
Edwin Shoemaker is an inventor, acquiring his first patent for a band saw guide in 1925. His engineering genius brought the mass production methods of Detroit's automotive industry into the upholstery plant, He planned and designed the manufacturing facility that opened in November, 1941. Production was 85 chairs per day from a factory with 24,000 square feet of floor space.
Today, total floor space has expanded to well over 5,000,000 square feet, with 8,000 employees in nine states. Shoemaker had a hand in the design and construction of every La-Z-Boy plant.
Shoemaker was among the first to project the physical properties of recliners as a science. If there were such a thing as the "'Father of Motion Furniture," he would be a candidate for that title.
As a trustee for the La-Z-Boy Chair Foundation since 1953, his philanthropy has touched hospitals, schools, libraries, museums, and a host of religious programs.
“Buck” Shuford (b.1937) became president of Century Furniture in 1969 at age 32, when his father, Harley F. Shuford, Sr., founder of Century, retired. Buck, who aspired to become an astronaut and a scientist, became a pilot and climbed Mount Matterhorn. He majored in physics at UNC-Chapel Hill and graduated Phi Beta Kappa.
As Century president, he put his scientific background to work using computer technology to achieve greater efficiencies; moved Century into the production of furniture with quality and style; and added 60,000 square feet of plant space and 5,000 square feet of showrooms. These changes in direction spurred solid growth as Century became one of the premier furniture manufacturers in the country and abroad.
Buck Shuford has dedicated himself to the community and the success of his family’s business while playing a major role in the advancement of the entire furniture industry. He led his company to invest, often at great cost, in advancing technologies. He pioneered developments resulting in better methodology at lower cost for other companies. He served as AFMA president in 1980; received the AFMA Distinguished Service Award in 1994; and was instrumental in the creation of the AFMA office in Washington, DC, the International Home Furnishings Marketing Association, the Furniture Foundation to support the N.C. State University furniture program, the Home Furnishings Council, and the first Board of Trustees of the American Furniture Hall of Fame.
Charles Sligh (b.1850 d.1927) was the founder, president, and general manager of Sligh Furniture Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1880. At the time of his death in 1927, it was the largest manufacturer of bedroom furniture in the world, employing nearly 1,500 workers.
He pioneered the idea of producing matching moderately priced bedroom furniture in suites as opposed to the then current practice of one company specializing in beds, another bureaus, and so on.
Mr. Sligh was the leader of his time in global thinking. He traveled to Honduras in 1883 and established the Honduras Mahogany Company as a source for mahogany. He broke a cartel of U.S. importers of German mirror and glass in 1890, when they restricted his supply, by traveling to Europe and finding other manufacturers ... to the benefit of the entire industry.
Mr. Sligh had a profound sense of civic and industry responsibility. He ran for governor of the State of Michigan in 1896; was a member of the commission which drafted the first Workman's Compensation Act for Michigan in 1912; and was elected to the Michigan State Senate in 1922. He was president of the National Furniture Manufacturers Association, president of the Grand Rapids Furniture Manufacturers Association, and a director of the National Association of Manufacturers.
Robert H. “Bob” Spilman (b. 1927 d. 2009) was chairman and CEO of Bassett Furniture Industries.
Mr. Spilman served in the military during World War II and again during the Korean conflict as an officer in the 82nd Airborne, then as an instructor at West Point. He graduated from Augusta Military Academy, attended Davidson College, and later received a bachelor’s of science degree from North Carolina State University.
He began his home furnishings career at fabric source Cannon Mills before joining Bassett in 1957 as sales manager for the company’s table division. He was named president in 1966, CEO in 1979, and was elected chairman in 1982. He retired in May 1997.
Mr. Spilman led one of the industry’s largest and most powerful case goods producers for decades in a period of dramatic change, including the growth of warehouse showrooms, captive distribution, imports and other issues. Under his guidance, Bassett became a full line manufacturer by adding recliners and motion, home office, bedding, and a highly regarded line of youth and infant furniture.
In 1970, Mr. Spilman served as president of the Southern Furniture Manufacturers Association, a predecessor to the American Home Furnishings Alliance. He received numerous awards for his business, civic and humanitarian activities including the “Man of the Year Award” presented by the Home Furnishings Association of Delaware Valley, and the James T. Ryan Award Statesman of Commerce in 1983.
Mr. Spilman was inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame in 2005.
Thomas B. Stanley, Sr. (b.1890 d.1970) was a bookkeeper, banker, manufacturer, congressman, and governor of Virginia during his prolific 80 years. He founded Stanley Furniture Company in 1924, building a 150,000 square-foot plant in Henry County.
He founded Ferrum Veneer in 1934 and Stanley Land and Lumber Company in 1944. In the 1960s, he purchased Sandhill Furniture Company and four upholstery plants. Over the next four decades as plants, shipping, storage, and office buildings were added, production doubled and redoubled.
Mr. Stanely helped to revolutionize the furniture industry as the first manufacturer to make high-quality furniture at a price the average American family could afford. This was made possible by his pioneering efforts in the area of factory automation such as the process for the Stanley “Waterfall” design, which used air bags to press a curve into the wood, and an embossing process that imprinted the grain of mahogany and other expensive woods onto poplar.
When he started his company, Mr. Stanley founded Stanleytown, VA., and built affordable homes for his employees. During the Depression, he refused to lay off anyone and lowered rents. His employee scholarship program sent promising young people to college regardless of color. Governor Stanley served on the board of directors of the Southern Furniture Manufacturers Association.
"Gustav Stickley is entitled to the distinction of having originated ... the one distinctively American school of design." (from Furniture Styles, 1909).
Mr. Stickley (b.1857 d.1942) was the leader of the American arts and crafts movement at the turn of the century, he pioneered the honesty and simplicity of the mission style of furniture at his Craftsman Workshops.
The workshops also produced cabinet work, rush seats, leather products, metal hardware, lamps and needlework from 1900 to 1916. Gustav's brothers, Leopold and John George, continued the Stickley factories until 1974, when the Audi family bought the L.&J.G. Stickley Company. Today, Gustav Stickley's original designs have been re-issued by that company.
He founded the Craftsman Farms, where his philosophy and lifestyle were practiced and shared. As publisher and editor of the monthly Craftsman Magazine, Stickley showed entire house plans with all the furnishings needed to complete them. Architectural drawings were sent to the readers free of charge. Craftsman homes sprang up around the country. More homes meant the sale of more furniture.
As Americans in the 1 990s have rediscovered the value of home and family, furniture manufacturers have drawn upon the designs of Gustav Stickley and his contemporaries. The prolific reproduction of his designs by today's manufacturers is a testament to his craftsman style and contribution to the industry. His furniture may be seen at major museums through the country.
George Thornton (b.1905 d.1980) was chairman of the board of Heilig-Meyers from 1970 until his death. He was born with retail in his blood, but it soon became clear that furniture was his first love. In 1950, after a 20-year career in retail, he purchased two-thirds interest in H.I. Jaffee Furniture Company in Suffolk, VA. He had to sell the family home, car, and tools to raise the $50,000 investment.
In the next 20 years, he was relentless in his pursuit of the furniture business. He bought or opened 12 more stores and a central warehouse. Thornton then developed a corporate team, centralized management, and created a system necessary to manage a large business. The opportunity to use it came with the merger of the nine Thornton stores and the 18 Heilig-Meyers stores, having a combined volume of $11 million. This was a significant event in the furniture industry, even though it didn’t appear so at the time. The company was renamed Meyers-Thornton. At that time, a “large” company was loosely defined as 50 stores and a “huge” company as 100 stores. None of the principals could have ever envisioned a company that grew in 29 years to more than 1,000 stores.
His numerous business and civic awards and activities include: serving on the Board of Directors of the Southern Retail Furniture Association; faculty member of the National Retail Furniture Associations School for Furniture Store Executives at Northwestern University; and chairman of the National Tax Committee of NRFA.
In 1990, Bob Timberlake (b. 1937), an internationally recognized artist who has become a brand, partnered with Lexington Home Brands to create “The World of Bob Timberlake.” Now topping more than $1 billion in furniture sales, his coordinated lifestyle displays have spanned seven collections, including 18th Century, Arts and Crafts, English Cottage and Irish Cottage, thus laying the foundation for theme-based furniture collections that today are popular throughout the industry. In 2006, he invested in Linwood Furniture in Linwood, N.C., in order to ensure that the furniture bearing his name would continue to be manufactured domestically.
Mr. Timberlake’s licensed products reflect his sportsmanship, personality and love for his family and span across 20 categories including furniture, textiles, wall décor, floor coverings, lighting, tabletop, gifts, home designs, apparel, books and collectible items. These collections are cross-marketed not only in furniture stores, but also gift stores, online, and in his freestanding Bob Timberlake Galleries launched in 1997 to display and retail a sampling of all of his licensed products. Today, Mr. Timberlake serves as Chairman of Bob Timberlake, Inc. which includes Bob Timberlake Licensing and The Bob Timberlake Gallery.
In home furnishings, he has been honored with the Academy of Achievement Award from the Accessories Resource Team, the top Designer Award for Bed Fashions from Cotton, Inc., and the International Furnishings and Design Association Trailblazer Award. In 2010, he was inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame.
Mr. Timberlake’s works have been published in seven books, displayed in various art museums across the world, and sold in prestigious art galleries internationally. He has received many honors for his civic and charitable contributions including the Albert Schweitzer Medal for Artistry, the American Forestry Award, the North Carolina Public Servant of the Year Award, the Iron Eyes Cody Award, the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award and the State of North Carolina Order of the Long Leaf Pine. His art work has been featured on several U.S. postal stamps and he has served as the Official Artist of Keep American Beautiful Inc.
Mr. Timberlake’s generous spirit has been demonstrated through his support of many worthy causes including the North Carolina Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, Duke Children’s Hospital, Toys for Tots and other organizations.
Charles Fawcett Tomlinson (b.1871 d.1943) was a leading pioneer builder of the furniture industry. Beginning in 1904, at the age of 33, he became secretary-treasurer of Tomlinson Chair Manufacturing Company.
Armed with a degree in philosophy from the University of North Carolina and a law degree, Mr. Tomlinson, early in his business career, began to see the advantages of organizing the industry as a whole. In 1913, he helped organize the Southern Furniture Exposition Building and was elected its first president. He held this office until 1923 and was chairman of the Executive Committee until his death.
As president of the Southern Furniture Manufacturers Association during 1916-1923, an economically trying period, he called a meeting of 400 furniture industry representatives that formed the National Council of Furniture Manufacturers and was elected its first president.
Charles Tomlinson, and his brother, Sidney Halstead, saw their business grow from 25 workmen to over 700 employees occupying over 13 acres of floor space.
In 1916, they began designing matching dining and living room suites. In this innovation, they were among the first to sense the broadening of American tastes. They began working with period furniture in 18th century French, English, and American tradition. Their Williamsburg Gallery was a first to display furniture in room settings ... a method that affected the whole industry. The Tomlinson furniture factory complex is entered in the National Register of Historical Places, now called Market Square.
A man of broad vision, innate resourcefulness and strong entrepreneurial spirit, Parks C. Underdown (b.1902 d.1981) was the founder and prime mover of a company that is today one of the nation's largest integrated suppliers of components to the furniture industry.
The company Underdown founded, Hickory Springs Manufacturing Company, was launched in 1944 as a small producer of coiled springs for area furniture companies. That company grew and expanded and today operates across the United States with over 60 locations in 17 states. It provides hundreds of companies from coast to coast with a broad spectrum of products and services ranging from polyurethane foam, motion mechanisms and polyester fiber to furniture supplies, sleeper mechanisms and automated wood carving.
Even more important than his role as the founder of a large, successful company was the role Underdown played in helping to restructure and give new impetus to the furniture supply industry. He was a primary force in helping to reposition this support industry that had long been characterized by small "Mom and Pop" single-product operations to one that, today, features large, well-managed companies offering multiple product lines. These larger companies are more sharply focused on the needs of the furniture industry and, because of economies of scale, can more efficiently and cost effectively meet the requirements of their customers. Throughout his long career, Underdown remained ever alert to opportunities to quickly meet the changing needs of the marketplace, to introduce new products and technology, and to expand the capabilities of the furniture supply industry.
John Vaughan (b.1930) chairman of the board of Vaughan Furniture Company and chairman/CEO of Webb Furniture Enterprises, is the son of Senator Taylor G. Vaughan, Sr., founder of Vaughan Furniture Company, and grandson of J.D. Bassett, Sr., founder of Bassett Furniture. After receiving a Bachelor of Science in Furniture Manufacturing and Management from North Carolina State University, and serving as a U.S. Army officer in the Korean conflict, he joined Vaughan Furniture in 1954. The company then had $2 million annually in sales.
John Vaughan established the first quality control department which led to increased sales and profit. The motto, “If it’s not right, it’s wrong,” still guides production. He became involved with product design and sales as well as the factories. He and his brother, George, directed the company through construction and acquisitions that brought his company to $147 million in sales in 1999, making it one of the top 30 residential furniture manufacturers in the U.S. and one of the most respected for its quality and stability.
As a board member of the SFMA, he assisted with its merger with NAFM, forming the American Furniture Manufacturers Association. He served as FMA president in 1988-89 and chairman 1989-91 during a severe economic downturn. He has been a strong supporter of the International Home Furnishings Marketing Association, has served on the Advisory Board of the N.C. State School of Engineering and as a board member of both The Furniture Foundation and the American Furniture Hall of Fame. John Vaughan has taken leadership roles in every area of his life.
Ronald G. Wanek (b.1941) founded Ashley Furniture Industries in the early 1970s. Since that time he has taken Ashley from being a modest manufacturer of occasional tables to the largest furniture manufacturer in the world and the second largest retailer in the United States in 2005.
Mr. Wanek has made many landmark decisions to raise his business to the level you see today. In the 1970s he began using European flat line construction in wood furniture which offered both high quality and labor efficiencies. In the 1980s, he developed global sourcing, becoming one of the first manufacturers to both source and sell around the world. He also introduced the industry's most successful polyester finishes bringing color to wood furniture.
His most recent contribution to the industry was his development of Ashley Furniture HomeStores. This introduced the concept of selling in Ashley-branded stores while focusing on the needs of middle income consumers. With sales from independent stores and the Ashley-branded stores, Mr. Wanek began to promote and advertise the Ashley name. Using this marketing technique, he has developed what appears to be not only the industry's largest entity but also its fastest growing consumer brand.
His leadership in the furniture industry and his community has been recognized with numerous awards over his extensive career. Mr. Wanek is known in his community and in the furniture industry for his ethics and strong family values. He has been married to his wife, Joyce, for 45 years. They have three children and nine grandchildren. He is a versatile man who, in his spare time, enjoys sculpting and is actively involved in politics.
Plato S. Wilson was born in Morganton, N.C. in 1925. One of his first customers was Henry Wilson of Henredon. His initial turndown was overcome, and he bought not one but two pages of advertising for Plato's high school yearbook. When he graduated from Duke, Mr. Wilson was there and offered him a job selling furniture, and a brand new car. That was the first of only two jobs in Plato's career…the other was with Henkel Harris.
Although his Southeastern territory was small and average, he consistently worked so hard and trained his retailer salespeople so well that he overwhelmed the competition. He produced several $10 million years and even scored a $1 million day.
After 2.6 million miles traveled, and life sales of $154 million, Plato has written an autobiography, "A Dream to Sell" which is a "how to" manual woven into the story of his life.
Plato Wilson is the archetype of the "Successful Salesman"...representing 40,000 or 50,000 of those who carried bags alongside him during almost 50 years.
He has served on the High Point Board of the Salvation Army for 20 years receiving their highest award, "The Others." He has contributed substantially to High Point University's Home Furnishings Program.
Star Furniture Chairman Melvyn L. Wolff (b. 1931) and his sister, Shirley Toomim, took a small family-owned, low-end, credit-oriented store and transformed it into one of the most successful retail furniture operations in the country. Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, he built a dedicated team of associates who are committed to exemplary performance, strong leadership, market dominance and unwavering integrity.
Mr. Wolff joined Star Furniture in 1956 after graduating from the University of Houston and serving two years as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Following the death of his father, the company’s co-founder who came to the United States after escaping a Russian work camp, he became president in 1962, buying out the remaining partners with his sister in 1964. Realizing that if they were to be successful, they had to separate Star from the competition, the store moved to a large freeway location and targeted a more affluent consumer. Their “Different by Design” strategy established Star as a destination for affordable style and superior service, with large, impressive displays that sold a lifestyle rather than a commodity. Growing to six locations in Houston and one each in San Antonio, Austin and Bryan-College Station, in 1995 Star was the 35th largest furniture retailer. When sold in 1997 to the Berkshire Hathaway investment group, Star became part of the fifth largest furniture group in the U.S.
Much of the Star success is attributed to its loyal customer base, with referrals and repeat business accounting for a large portion of its sales. Star has built a strong reputation for exemplary service, a track record maintained through quality assurance and incentive programs tied to performance, and customer satisfaction measures. Mr. Wolff has always led by example, challenging all Star associates to not just work hard, but work smart. He encourages individuals to grow and give back, providing opportunities for ongoing training and advancement. Throughout his career, Mr. Wolff has been an active contributor to the industry, chairing numerous committees of the National Home Furnishings Association, serving as Convention Chairman in 1994 and vice president of its executive committee, as well as serving on the Hall of Fame Board of Directors and its Legacy Board.
Following the sale of Star to Berkshire Hathaway, Mr. Wolff established the Melvyn and Cyvia Wolff Charitable Trust to support education for the underprivileged, healthcare research and other community efforts. The Trust endowed and founded the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Houston, ranked first in the nation by The Princeton Review of leading undergraduate entrepreneurship programs. The Trust also supports Kipp Academy, United Way, Ronald McDonald House, Texas Children’s Hospital, University of Texas Health Science Center, American Cancer Society and MD Anderson Cancer Center. Over the years, Mr. Wolff also has served as an officer or director on 14 community boards, including MD Anderson, Ronald McDonald House, American Cancer Society and the University of Houston President’s Council and Endowment Board. In addition, he has served as president of the Beth Israel Congregation and is the recipient of the Max Nathan and Samuel Karff awards. Other awards include the Trail Blazer Award from the American Cancer Society, American Heritage Award from the Anti-Defamation League, and the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Houston College of Business. He also served as an adjunct professor in the Jones School of Business at Rice University.
When Elliott Wood (b.1909 d.1999) started his first company, Heritage, in 1937, he raised the quality level of all southern-manufactured furniture by building the highest-quality upholstery attainable with the best Eighteenth Century design. Wood started Founders Furniture in 1946. In 1947, with partners who had already invested in Heritage, he founded Henredon. This formed the Heritage-Henredon combination which lasted until 1957, when Drexel, Heritage, and Morganton became Drexel-Heritage. In 1963, Wood and partners founded Woodmark and he served as president and chairman. In 1981, he founded Markwood, the first holding company to provide venture capital for home furnishings…thus launching many other furniture enterprises.
Wood’s research on ergonomics in the 1940s with Harvard’s Ernest Hooten led to changes in seating quality and comfort to his Heritage chairs and sofas. Known for efficient factory management, Wood also excelled in innovative merchandising and marketing. He worked with Frank Lloyd Wright on a “Taliesin” line of home furnishings for Heritage-Henredon in 1955 that was a major feature in House Beautiful.
Elliott Wood was the consummate entrepreneur, leader, and mentor, founding furniture companies and inspiring those who worked with him. More than 30 men who began their careers under his tutelage went on to become chief executives of major companies. He served as an officer, director, and generous benefactor of almost every worthy organization in his industry and community.
Thomas Wrenn (b.1860 d.1940) can correctly claim the title of trailblazer of the furniture industry in the South. He and John H. Tate formed the High Point Furniture Company in 1888 and built the first furniture plant in High Point. It was successful from the start, and paid its first cash dividend in 1889. Of course, it spawned many imitators. In 10 years, there were 12 competitors in High Point alone.
Mr. Wrenn ran his company with distinction for the next 50 years. Years later, Mr. Wrenn liked to recall that the High Point Furniture Company was in business when Coxey's army marched through High Point en route to Washington during the panic of 1890.
In less than 15 years, the managers saw an obvious need for furniture showrooms near their factories. Mr. Wrenn was instrumental in opening the first High Point Exposition Company in 1902, and the Furniture Manufacturers Exposition Company in 1903. The success of these efforts resulted in the erection of the 10-story Southern Furniture Exposition Building in 1921, in which Tom Wrenn also actively participated. That structure has grown into the magnificent International Home Furnishings Center, and the global furniture market which now surrounds it in and near High Point.
Tom Wrenn was the first of a group of giants. Without them, there would be no Furniture Hall of Fame today. From the concentration of manufacturing in North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee to the International Home Furnishings Market, his impact is there.
Felix Wright (b.1935), born and raised in rural Texas, is a graduate of East Texas State. He believed early in life that a person’s most valuable attribute is their personal integrity. This principle of business integrity has been one of the benchmarks of Mr. Wright’s management style throughout his long career at Leggett & Platt and remains a cornerstone of the company today.
His service to the industry dates back over 45 years beginning with his hiring as a customer service manager in Leggett & Platt’s Ennis, Texas, facility. Since that time, he has served in a variety of leadership positions including president and chairman of the Board of Directors. One of his greatest contributions to the home furnishings industry has been his unwavering support in the industry’s manufacturing base. Time after time, he has personally stepped in to assist a small startup operation during a difficult period. This recognition of the importance of finding creative solutions to the customer’s problem has helped the industry to meet the ever changing demands of the consumer. Under his direction, Leggett & Platt has multiplied its product offerings and distribution network.
His leadership skills were developed over his many years of managing a wide range of facilities throughout several geographic regions of the country. Mr. Wright realized early in his career that great leaders must be great listeners. He always encouraged the employee partners of Leggett & Platt to share their thoughts about the company and how it could be improved. As a result, the company continues to benefit from a culture that supports and rewards employee participation. With the help of Mr. Wright’s leadership, Leggett & Platt has grown from a handful of facilities to serving the furniture and bedding industry as the largest component supplier in the world.
Throughout his career, he has been a longtime supporter of the numerous industry and trade associations. As past president of the Suppliers Council of the National Association of Bedding Manufacturers and the American Innerspring Manufacturers Association, he is extensively involved in civic, community, and charitable activities and organizations.
J. Smith Young’s career began more than 50 years ago, when, as a teenager, he worked summers at Dixie Furniture Company, which was founded by his uncle, Henry T. Link. Mr. Young (b.1917 d. 2001) attended Wake Forest University, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Economics. His furniture career was interrupted by a four-year tour of duty in the Navy. After training at Harvard University, Mr. Young’s service on board a destroyer included several invasions, after which he returned to Lexington and employment at Dixie.
In 1950, Mr. Young became the vice president of sales and in the following years helped establish Link-Taylor Corporation, Young-Hinkle Corporation, and Henry Link Corporation, all separate but related companies. Over the years, Mr. Young became both chairman and president of Dixie and Henry Link, as well as executive vice president of Link-Taylor and Young-Hinkle.
He has taken a position of leadership in the furniture industry as a chairman of the Southern Furniture Manufacturers Association, receiving the prestigious James T. Ryan Award in 1983. Mr. Young headed the Furniture Factories Marketing Association, and the board of governors of both the Dallas Market Center and the Atlanta Merchandise Mart.
Mr. Young had an impact on the residential furniture industry like few others, through creative merchandising concepts, close working relationships with leading retailers, new manufacturing techniques, and strength in distribution and merchandising.