How did we get to the point where almost everything we buy is from some place other than here?
Let me tell you a little story…about a nice company.
Not too long ago most of our furniture was made in the good old U S of A.
And a lot of it here in North Carolina.
The common story now is that US factories are shuttering their doors and the American worker is out of work.
A good amount of furniture is being manufactured “somewhere” cheaply with sub standard goods (it can’t even really be called wood) and has finishes/paints applied so heavily you won’t see what is underneath.
Not only is this killing the economy…I wonder/worry a lot about the effects of those finishes outgassing in our homes.
Now let’s talk about a company still employing folks here, still growing and still building furniture…
… and celebrating 100 years in the business!
Hickory Chair in Hickory, North Carolina.
I had the pleasure of “graduating” from Hickory Chair University last week…meaning I spent 2-1/2 days touring their factory, sitting in “class” and learning more about what it means to build a really fine piece of furniture.
As an interior designer, it is crucial to my business that I not only know what the furniture I specify is made of but also stand behind the quality and believe in the product.
I will not put something in a client’s home that I wouldn’t put in mine.
I really like what I saw and…
I got to PEEK at the new pieces that will be debuting at October Furniture Market in High Point!
You can’t see the label on the drawing on the work table but it’s for a great looking new sofa for October. The frame is in front of me.
Another new chair frame:
I know you can’t stand the excitement either. Further down I’ll show some pics of the new pieces.
I won’t go into too much detail but I will tell you that HC (Hickory Chair) has been very successful in a terrible economy by not only building a fine product but by embracing the philosophy of empowering their workers.
They have weekly meetings to find out what the workers need, how the workers feel they could do their jobs better and they give them all the tools and systems to do so.
When there is a problem with a piece, they go back to the line to find out what happened and ask the workers how they think they could improve on the technique, system or production control.
Here is the company president, Jay Reardon asking one of his employees about her job:
This plaque was hanging above her station and summed it up for me:
Furniture here is bench made. It isn’t started into production until there is an actual order. Which means the worker knows that they are actually building something for a customer. They know how much it costs to build it and how much Hickory Chair sells it for.
The workers get paid by the hour, not by the piece which means your furniture won’t be slapped together. And there is a bonus system. If the company meets it’s goals, the employees are rewarded for that.
That’s the way it should be done.
Hickory Chair still makes almost every component for their furniture including legs, inlays, stretchers, cushions, corner blocks etc. in the factory.
This man shapes all of these legs by hand.
All the finished legs
I could talk about manufacturing for a hundred years since furniture is my thing.
But…onto some things you might recognize…
Becomes this bed:
This piece becomes:
The Spool Chair (The original) designed by Mark Hampton.
I am installing one of these at a client’s home on Friday and I can’t wait to see it…maybe I’ll snap a pic for you!
This naked chest:
Looks divine with its finish on
Adorns this china cabinet:
Becomes this Alexa Hampton Eva Chair:
And now here are some of the new pieces for October Furniture Market:
Suzanne Kasler’s new barstool!
Crazy for Biscuit tufting!
Fun to see the “guts”…I heart the new contemporary wing chairs!
This is going to be a great little tubby clubby
This has nice masculine lines…can’t wait to see how it sits with it’s back cushion.
It’s like being Mrs. Kravitz (Bewitched) and spying!
Only I had permission.
I’ll close with some random images of the factory.
I have new found respect…there was no air conditioning in certain places in the factory to keep the dust down. It was very hot and even though there are water bottle stations every so often, the ovens upstairs in the finishing rooms made it almost unbearable.
These folks were smiling and focused on their job.
They know they are craftspeople, not just factory workers. They know they are building a piece of furniture, (possibly an heirloom) for someone’s home and that it is “made by hand in the USA.”