I ran into a retired long time employee this week. We had a great opportunity to catch up on all the things he had been doing since he retired about 6 years ago. He commented on the state of the furniture industry and I quickly started telling him about the things Hickory Chair could do to make one of a kind pieces and that has allowed us to grow and be successful in a difficult time for the furniture industry. I quickly shared with him how in 2007 and 2008 we had record years! He was surprised as his mind was filled with all the news of plant closings in our area over the past few years.
I shared with him that today if a customer wants a 120" sofa we say No Problem...and we ship it in 14-21 days from order! I shared with him that if a customer wants us to remove the wood door panels on an armoire and replace them with glass we say No Problem. If that customer then asks if we could change the wood shelves in that piece for glass shelves we say No Problem. Then if they ask us to stain the outside of the cabinet in a Hickory Chair stain but want us to paint the inside in a paint color to match their room we still can say No Problem. Then if they prefer a different Hickory Chair hardware or want to send us their own hardware we say No Problem... and we can ship it in 14-30 days from order!
Today I was in the factory and noticed a Milo Made 2 Measure Table. It was 30" dining height, was 24" deep and 60" long with the top in Maple veneer. The amazing thing was that it was finished in a Benjamin Moore high gloss lacquer as a match panel! This is definately a one of a kind piece that we likely will never make again! This caused me to think about my friend that I had spoken with the day before. In the years since he retired we have worked hard to allow flexibility in size, finish, construction, hardware, etc. We have moved the wood products factory to share the building with the upholstery factory. This has allowed us to streamline and become even more nimble. We do make most of the furniture that we made when he was here but we certainly have evolved from only one finish and standard hardware. We have evolved from one size of a sofa. Surely he would have felt like "I do not think I am in Kansas any more" with all the things Hickory Chair can do today!
Our friend, Mariette Himes Gomez was recently featured in an article in the Litchfield County Times online site CountyTimes.Com. This top story Designer Takes on the Chair, showcases how very involved Mariette is not only with Hickory Chair's new introductions, but her client's projects, a new book Apartments (due spring 2010), licensed collections including a fabric collection with Hinson & Company, photographs with Soicher-Marin and her custom rugs through Doris Leslie Blau Gallery, New York.
In the article it follows her amazing career from its humble beginnings to where she is now. With the launch of exciting new pieces for her very successful seven year old Mariette Himes Gomez Collection for Hickory Chair, she revisited the 20th Century looking to intriguing forms from the 1920's, 1930's, 1940's and 1950's. Her astute eye brought together a diversified mix of new pieces for the collection that blend not only with her existing collection, but with the other offerings from Hickory Chair.
Traveling to New York? You can visit The Shoppe located at 504 East 74th Street. In this amazing retail shop not only can you find pieces from her Hickory Chair collection, but also pieces from her custom workshop and amazing antiques she has found in her travels!
I was searching the web for a blog post that I had remembered when I stumbled across Bryn Alexandra's blog post "Client's Elegant Dining Room". I loved the idea of her site and her bio: She is a 20 something, frugal living newlywed's blog about designing her life one day (room, meal or outfit) at a time.
Bryn said a lot in that italicized phrase... we want to invest in things that we love, have value and will want to keep for a long time. This is being frugal. Being frugal allows you to carefully invest in pieces. Being frugal should allow you to save your money for great quality things that will last a long time. If you buy quality you likely will pay a little more initially but over time since it will last, you will never need to spend those dollars again. In addition, since you are not disposing it you are being environmentally friendly. You won't be filling the landfills with things that did not last. In the end you likely have saved a lot of money over time.
In this blog post she had selected the Blix Arm and Side Chairs by Alexa Hampton (see photo) for Hickory Chair. These chairs are architectural in form. They are made from fine solid mahogany with a beautiful plantation grown kingwood veneer applied to the back. One of the artists that hand paints pieces to order striped solid gold paint on the back to punctuate the form. She painted over the black inlay lines that are standard on the back.
We are working with Alexa on a large introduction for the fall International Home Furnishings Market in High Point, NC. By the holiday season your designer or local store will have an assortment of these amazing new introductions to share with you!
For some time we have heard from our HCC University participants in the "impressed by sessions" that they were expecting a factory with production lines. They did not expect Hickory Chair's 600,000 square foot factory to have the feel of being a custom workroom! Our employees showed their passion and craftsmanship. They were happy and shared their enthusiasm for our culture of continuous improvement named EDGEEmployees Dedicated to Growth and Excellence. They were eager to share their stories of the ideas they had to make their work not so hard, to make the product better quality, to reduce the waste in the process and to make one of a kind pieces to order. They were amazed to see one of a kind pieces being made to order.
We began using the word made instead of manufactured a few years ago. We do not manufacture large production runs. We do make pieces to order. This allows us to personalize pieces for the person's home. We make the vast majority of our wood and upholstered products here in Hickory, North Carolina. We do source some hand carved posts and pieces from long term associates off shore in areas where there are no local sources. We do source metal, glass, stone and our hardware as we do not make these components. But, if we can possibly make it we are determined to keep the work here for our employees. While most manufacturers have been closing plants, we are working hard to build skill, perfect artisanship and remove the waste through recycling, repurposing and and designing the waste out of the product. It is lack of control of these costs that typically causes domestic factories to close. It is a fact that the percentage of pieces made here in Hickory grows each year!
We celebrate the word MADE as it reflects the dedication of 450 employees here in Hickory, North Carolina who hand make furniture to order. It is in celebration of this ability that we have changed the name of HCC University Alumni news to MADE for those who take furniture personally!
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In a continued effort to reduce environmental impact, Hickory Chair is now offering an email option to receive acknowledgements and invoices. We have had a number of dealers wish that we could quit mailing and faxing paper acknowledgements and invoices. Both methods require using paper. If you allow us to email them to you it will allow you to receive the information faster and more efficiently. We might suggest that you make sure your spam blocker is set to allow Hickory Chair to send emails with attachments!
For those of you who would like to switch to emailed acknowlegements and invoices, simply email your Hickory Chair sales representative and they will be happy to make this simple change.
Some of the accomplishments we have made to continue to reduce our environmental footprint include:
Reduction in landfill waste due to recycling, repurposing and designing the waste out of the product. In 2006 each employee generated 1.3 TONS of waste. In 2008 each employee only generated .7 tons of waste. This year we are on a pace of .4 tons per employee!
Last year we were able to bring in 9 products that we had previously imported that are now being made in Hickory, NC! Can you imagine how much fuel and pollution this saves to make it in Hickory, NC instead of having to transport it all the way from the Philippines! Just think of the fuel for the cargo ship, train and then transfer trucks not to mention the labor to load and unload or the pollution savings!
Last November we were awarded the first SAGE Award by Cargill and the AHFA for the company wide culture we have developed to be good stewards of the planet!
Inan age of imported products, it is comforting to know that Hickory Chair is still hand crafting one of a kind pieces in Hickory, North Carolina. Since 1911 we have enjoyed the results of highly trained artisans and craftsman that have chosen to make furniture as their vocation. They take such pride in their ability to make pieces that no one may every order that same way again.
In fact did you realize that 87% of our entire product line is made in Hickory? Over the past 5 years our employees have worked diligently to remove the wasteful processes and materials from our facility. The result is that they have more time to invest in each piece that has been ordered for a home. Five years ago only 80% of our product line was made in Hickory.
Because we make it here we have flexibility that offshore manufacturers just do not have! Our employees will work together to try and modify or create one of a kind pieces for our customers. For example, a designer that visited us at market and was excited to see how we had personalized Suzanne Kasler's Piedmont Dining Table to be counter height. (Refer to our They Made It For Me story for more details). Her client needed a very large casual cocktail table. The search ended when she asked " If you can make it taller, can you make it shorter? I need a 20" cocktail table!" We checked with the factory and it was a quick yes!
Asking for special construction requests are easy! Just email your customer service representative a detailed request. If possible print out a picture of the piece from the web site and draw/label it with the instructions. Then fax or scan and email this drawing. Our team meets every morning to review the requests. Our goal is to say yes to every request but if we can not accomodate it we will not only offer a suggestion but will use this to push ourselves to figure out how to be able to say yes next time!
Our rep in Minneapolis recently sent this picture of a country club installation. The designer selected the 4601-84 Baltimore Sofa from the Albert Sack Collection and the 7666-10 Calla Side Table from the Mariette Himes Gomez Collection as the perfect pieces to complete this lounge area.
With our ability to perform the BIFMA pull test on pieces destined for commercial use, we have become the right arm for many design firms that work in hospitality and other commercial applications.
Hickory Chair pieces can be found all over the United States and various other countries in commercial installations. Where are a few?
The Cincinnatian Hotel - Cincinnati, OH
The Prince of Wales Hotel and the Queen's Landing Inn - Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
The Charleston Place Hotel - Charleston, SC
The Drake - Chicago, IL
60 Thompson Hotel - New York, NY
The Ritz Carlton - Laguna Nigel, CA
The Peabody Hotel - Memphis, TN
The Sheraton - Yokohama Bay, Japan
The Kahala Hotel - Honolulu, HA
The Woodlands Resort - Woodlands, TX
The Renaissance Harbor Court Hotel - Baltimore, MD
The Tidewater Inn - Easton, MD
The list goes on and on... why not inquire about what we can do to help you!
In May we shared an amazing story about a family that had inherited vintage twin beds made by the Hickory Chair Manfacturing Company that were made in approximately 1928. In this story, Vintage Hickory Chair, the daughter of the original owner had reached out to us at Hickory Chair to share her story. She had told us that these beds were the wedding gift to her parents. They had been purchased in Poughkepsie, NY and they now were in the daughter's home in Colorado. She promised to share pictures of the bed. Last week she kept her promise and emailed these pictures to us! In these pictures you can see the wonderful condition these beds are in after the 80 years of use by this family.
The dedication of the employees in each era of Hickory Chair's history that began in 1911 has allowed pieces to become heirlooms. Whether you find Hickory Chair vintage pieces in your family's home, ebay, craig's list or your local antique dealer's shop, there are countless pieces that have timeless quality and style.
Creativity takes many forms. I was inspired by the designer who asked us to personalize two of the Drake Cabinet bases for their client's bath! The Hickory Chair Drake Cabinet, by Alexa Hampton, is almost a 'transformer' from its original design. Ordered through our HCC University Alumni friend, The Finished Room, in Alpharetta, Georgia, were two amazing Drake Cabinets!
Suzanne Kasler's collection by Hickory Chair celebrated its first anniversary at the spring 2009 market. We were able to make a frequent wish come true at this market! The Leigh sectional was originally designed to be armless. Our HCC University alumni have wished that she would design an arm version for customers that prefer arms. Suzanne was happy to honor the request by designing this sleek track arm for not only the chair shown but all of the other pieces that are part of the Leigh sectional group. In addition, we have added many more companion pieces to the grouping so that you now have the flexibility to create just the perfect grouping for your room!