New members to the American Furniture Hall of Fame for 1997 will be selected from twelve industry pioneers who have been nominated to the American Furniture Hall of Fame.
"A numbered ballot and a printed Candidates' Roster, containing photos and biographies of the nominees, has been sent to all AFHF sponsors on August 15, 1997," announced Irwin Lowenstein, Rhodes, the president of AFHF. "Voting by AFHF sponsors will take place from August l5 to September 15, 1997. The newly elected laureates will be inducted and honored during the AFHF Banquet Gala on opening day of furniture market, Thursday, October 16, 1997, in the International Home Furnishings Club in High Point, North Carolina. Candidates for the 1997 American Furniture Hall of Fame include:
S. Meyer Barnett (b 1896 d 1986) served Reliable Stores for 70 years as manager, officer, president and chairman of the board. He was a leader in revolutionary changes that took furniture retailing from its downtown roots out to the growing suburban areas of our country. In 1924, he acquired eleven northeast furniture stores and solidified them into one of America's greatest furniture chains.
Joe Benaron (b 1915 d 1991) As a rising young pioneer, this industrialist began his career in furniture by founding Belvedere Mfg. Company in 1940. An early trailblazer of vertical integration, when he couldn't find materials for his companies, he started supplier companies. By age 30, he owned and was top officer of ten California-based companies. His last invention, the "Relaxor Massage System", is currently being used by La-Z-Boy and other top manufacturers.
Louis Euster (b 1905) opened Modern Furniture Company in New York in 1939 pioneering the sale of quality contemporary furnishings. His early support of Avant Garde furniture was a factor in helping US transitional and contemporary manufacturers to grow and compete with imports. Euster's success emphasizes the importance of the independent retailer as a vital link in distribution, in the development of new products, in promoting changes in the manufacturing techniques and in advancing the lifestyles for the American public.
Donald Gabbert (b 1917) Entrepreneur Donald Gabbert founded Gabbert's Furniture and Design Studio in Minneapolis in 1946. Expansions of the high-end furnishings superstores soon followed in the Minneapolis/St. Paul and Dallas/Fort Worth areas. As a retailer pioneer, his many innovations as a leader included: presenting the product the way a customer would most enjoy shopping for it; offering pricing guarantees; introducing consumer seminar programs and special events. He worked at positioning Gabbert's with dominance in its market and the country. It is consistently ranked among the top 100 US furniture stores.
John R. "Jack" Gerken. Jr. (b 1926), past president and chairman of Norwalk Furniture Corporation, Mr, Gerken helped Norwalk grow from a regional manufacturer to a formidable national competitor. In the 1960's, Jack and his brother Ned pioneered the furniture franchising concept. In 1996, Norwalk was named second fastest-growing home furnishings retail operation in the US. He was the driving force behind developing the International Woodworking Machinery Show and Furniture Supply Fair (IWF) He also helped to unite the National and Southern Furniture Manufacturers Associations; and develop the home furnishings econometric forecasting model.
Anton "Tony" Gfesser (b 1930) is chairman of the board of Trendler Components of Chicago, one of the largest family furniture component manufacturers in North America. They produce over four million swivels a year with annual sales exceeding ten million dollars. A consummate inventor, he will adapt a product to a new use, or create an entirely new product as a solution to a customer's marketing or design problem. A real American success story, Anton escaped from World War II concentration camp in Yugoslavia, entered the US with $20 and a tradition of old world craftsmanship. He has involved his four sons in the business, put them through college and installed in each his work ethic and determination.
Clvde Hooker Jr. (b 1920) joined Hooker Furniture in 1946 and rose to CEO in 1996. Under his guidance, Hooker has increased sales from four million to over 164 million dollars and has always been an industry profit leader. Clyde served as chairman of the Dallas Market Center Advisory Board, on the Atlanta Merchandise Mart Advisory Board, is Director Emeritus of American Furniture Manufacturers Association and is a substantial contributor to the Home Furnishings Council and High Point University Furniture Program. He has received numerous industry awards and honors.
AIbert G. Juilfs (b 1891 d 1970), co-founder of Senco Products, was an inventive genius and pioneer. During a lifetime that saw him acquire almost 100 patents, 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 largely eliminated the problem of finding skilled craftsmen. Albert Juilfs genius transformed upholstery manufacturing and produced significant increases in productivity that are needed to keep the US competitive in world markets.
Spencer Colie Kittinger (b 1901 d 1968) served as president of the 131 year old Kittinger Company from 1941 to 1966 during a period of growth and innovation. The company became a legend for high quality reproductions of English and American antiques...the only authorized manufacturer of the furniture of Colonial Williamsburg and with an exclusive appointment to make Newport Reproductions. Spencer said, "While our plans for the future are ambitious, we will never grow so large that the highest quality shall give way to quantity production." With a constant backlog of orders, their dollar volume during that time was $4.5 to five million range.
Earl N. Phillips (b 1875 d 1975) was an entrepreneur in several distinctive fields of home furnishings. During his fifty-year career, he founded many companies to provide services to the furniture industry: Phillips Mills; Phillips Factors and First Factors, Phillips Foscue and National Springs Corporation. He served as mayor of High Point, and was founding chairman of many community institutions such as the String and Splinter Club and the world-renowned Hatteras Yncht Comnany.
Erie J. Sauder (b 1904 d 1997) founded the Sauder Woodworking Company in Archbold, Ohio in the early 1930's and served as chairman until his recent death. In 1951, Erie pioneered the ready-to-assemble concept. Currently, Sauder is the nation's leading producer of ready-to-assemble furniture and the sixth largest manufacturer of furniture in North America. Sauder is the country's largest manufacturer of church furniture, a leading producer of institutional seating, and Archbold Container is a producer of packaging material.
George Alden Thornton. Jr. (b 1905 d 1980) was chairman of the board of Heilig-Meyers from 1970 until his death. When his nine stores merged with Heilig-Meyers eighteen stores, the combined volume of Meyers-Thornton was 11 million dollars. The new merger provided the opportunity to use Mr. Thornton's 40 years of retail experience, and his visionary development of a corporate centralized management team, system and warehouse, to form the foundation for Heilig-Meyers growth to 1000 stores.
The American Furniture Hall of Fame is an all-industry effort organized to honor those individuals whose outstanding achievements have contributed to the continued growth and development of the American furniture industry and to research, collect and preserve its cultural, economic and artistic history. For more information call (910) 882 5900.
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