Howard G. Haas, former president and CEO of Sealy Inc.; Kevin M. O’Connor, president and CEO of Samson Marketing; and Melvyn L. Wolff, chairman of Star Furniture Company receive top honor.
New American Furniture Hall of Fame members Kevin O'Connor, Melvyn Wolff and Howard Haas, pictured left to right above.
Three industry leaders have been inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame. Joining the current 88 Hall of Fame members are Howard G. Haas, former president and CEO of Sealy Inc.; Kevin M. O’Connor, president and CEO of Samson Marketing; and Melvyn L. Wolff, chairman of Star Furniture Company.
The international banquet was attended by leading retailers, buying group members, interior designers, manufacturers, suppliers and other foundation members, and hosted by Julie Luck, FOX 8 Evening News Anchor.
“Every person on the slate this year is worthy so the selection process was particularly competitive, based on a vote by the membership combined with our points-based rating system of each nominee by the Foundation’s Industry Fellow Selection Committee,” says Randy Ford, president of the American Furniture Hall of Fame Foundation. “This new process looks throughout the industry, across all segments, to ensure the integrity of the honor. Each new member truly represents enduring excellence, superior accomplishments, innovation and creativity, and philanthropic generosity in their time, talents and resources.”
Howard G. Haas (b.1924), president and CEO of Sealy Inc. for 19 years, increased revenues from $32 million to $550 million without the acquisition of a competitor or supplier. He integrated a group of 34 independent licensees into a unified entity, achieving new efficiencies and consistency across factories in production and service. A leader and mentor to many in the bedding industry, three of his young executives now lead Simmons, Sealy and Serta. Under his leadership, in-store displays showcased Posturepedic bedding, sleep shops made their debut, and Sealy became the first bedding company to run national television advertising. A retired adjunct professor of Strategic Management at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, Mr. Haas co-authored the best-selling book, “The Leader Within.”
Kevin M. O’Connor (b.1945) worked his way up from sales representative to president of two leading furniture companies before launching Legacy Classic Furniture in 1999. Partnering with Samuel Kuo of Samson Holding, he developed a business model that enables customers to mix a wide variety of products on a direct-container basis with door-to-door service from China. This plan, now common throughout the industry, makes it possible for independent retailers to affordably source smaller quantities of imported products. Today, Mr. O’Connor is president and CEO of Samson Marketing, which includes Legacy and Universal Furniture. With a long track record of service to the furniture industry and community organizations, he has served in leading roles for the High Point Market Authority, the High Point Pre-Market, American Home Furnishings Alliance, the American Furniture Hall of Fame and the City of Hope.
Melvyn L. Wolff (b.1931) is the Chairman of Houston based Star Furniture is credited with transforming a small credit-oriented, low-end store into one of the country’s most successful retail furniture operations. With his sister, Shirley Toomim, he repositioned the company, founded by his father, to serve a more affluent customer. The company has consistently been a leader in creating innovative marketing strategies and display techniques ahead of industry practices. In 1997 he sold his company to the Berkshire Hathaway Company. The company has 750 employees in four cities and is now celebrating its 100th anniversary. Mr. Wolff is currently a member of the Board of the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and is an active industry contributor. His involvement includes the National Home Furnishings Association and numerous community boards.
Industry Fellows Also Honored:
Industry Fellows who were also recognized for their exceptional leadership, accomplishments and contributions to the furniture industry were Jena Hall, Clement M. Lange Jr., and Thomas E. Wright.
Industry Fellows Clement Lange Jr. of Best Home Furnishings, Thomas Wright of Wright's of Thomasville and Jena Hall of Jena Hall Designs, pictured above, were honored as Industry Fellows.
Under the new selection system, the inductees were determined by the combination of a vote of the membership and a points-based rating system of each nominee by the Foundation’s Industry Fellow Selection Committee. The voting period began July 9 and ended August 3.
Platinum level sponsors are headlined by AICO/Amini Innovations; Ashley Furniture Industries; Furniture Brands International; La-Z-Boy, Inc., and Samson Holding.
Gold sponsors: Art Van Furniture; Berkshire Hathaway Furniture Companies; FEI Marketing; Hickory Springs Manufacturing Company; Leggett & Platt, Inc.; Markor Companies; Sealy, Inc.; and Zenith Global Logistics
Silver sponsors: Best Home Furnishings; Culp, Inc.; Flexsteel Industries, Inc.; Havertys Furniture Company; Klaussner Furniture Industries Inc.; Raymour & Flanigan Furniture; Simmons Bedding Company; Stein World; and Vaughan-Bassett Furniture, Inc.
Copper sponsors: Baer’s Furniture Company, Inc.; Bassett Furniture Industries; Donald A. Belgrad; Carpenter Company; City Furniture; El Dorado Furniture, Inc.; Grand Home Furnishings; International Market Centers; L. & J.G. Stickley, Inc.; Primo International; Rooms To Go; Steinreich Communications; Therapedic International; Watkins and Shepard Trucking, Inc.; and Zuo Modern Contemporary.
The American Furniture Hall of Fame Foundation, Inc. is an international, industry-wide organization founded to honor those individuals whose outstanding achievements have contributed to the continued growth and development of the U.S. furniture industry, as well as to research, collect and preserve our cultural, economic and artistic history. Membership includes eligibility to vote for inductees into the American Furniture Hall of Fame, and the opportunity to help preserve the history and heritage of the industry. The organization is based in High Point, North Carolina at 202 Neal Place, and can be reached at 336.882.5900. For more information and to read more about inducted members and this year's Industry Fellows, visit www.furniturehalloffame.com.
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