Saturday, May 30, 2009

An American Manufacturing Company

As you read this we have a group 0f 30 designers, sales associates and a blogger on their way to attend HCC University! Our new friends are traveling from Utah, New York, Louisiana, South Dakota, Texas, Iowa, Tennessee, Missouri, Minnesota, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Arkansas and Arizona! We appreciate everyone leaving their families, clients and lives behind to come spend a couple days with us!

Yesterday a gentleman from Colorado called and asked for a factory tour. He had learned that Hickory Chair has a factory tour program and he called to see if he could bring his family by to see an AMERICAN MANUFACTURING COMPANY! Our insurance prevents individuals under 18 years old to enter the factory but I invited him to come see our showroom and meet our employees. He doubted it would work out since they would be coming through Hickory as they leave Asheville traveling toward Raleigh over the weekend. He mentioned that it was very important to him that he teach his children that the things they have were made by people. That the furniture in their home was made by hand.

I wish that I could have accomodated this family. It is just one family, but one family that would share our story with their friends and family. Maybe someday we will be able to open our 98 year old custom workshop to let everyone see how quality Hickory Chair furniture is made!

Friday, May 29, 2009

I Had it Made...

I was walking through the upholstery shop and saw this beautiful mahogany Baltimore Sofa with a special construction tufted back. This customer had a very specific idea in mind for their room. With our ability to custom make pieces, we were able to say yes to this family! I wish you could have seen how beautiful it was upholstered in this velvet fabric with the handsome finish that isso clear it allows the wood grain and inlay to shine through the tinted transparent layers of finish.
As I gazed upon it I thought about how each tuft was meticulously hand made. The upholsterer told me that it took most of the work day to hand tuft this one sofa's back. It takes patience and skill to hand tuft. So many other companies just button the "tufted" pieces now. I wish you could have watched him take his 15" long tufting needle and thread it with polyester twine with a hand made button. Then he carefully inserted the needle through the fabric and hypoallergenic filling through to the back of the piece. Then he carefully folded the fabric in the tuft and shifted the filling until he knew it was just right. Then he walked to the back of the sofa and carefully knotted the twine around the anchor to insure that in the years this family had the one of a kind Baltimore Sofa in their room they would never have an issue with buttons coming out or untied. Over and over this process was repeated until each tuft was perfected. The way HICKORY CHAIR employees anchors the twine is unqiue to our company. In all the years has upholstery been made, none of our customers have ever seen a technique like our craftsmen devised!
What charges my batteries is watching the careful attention to detail each of our craftsmen take. They know that when someone invests in a hand made Hickory Chair piece they expect the finest in quality and tailoring. With a 98.8% quality approval rate from our customers we feel we are on the right track!
This adaptation of a fine antique from the archive of Albert Sack is truly timeless. Albert Sack is the world's greatest authority of American antique furniture. From his archive we have the great fortune to work alongside him to select these timeless forms, like the Baltimore Sofa, whose great proportion and scale allow them to transcend time. In this very modern room scene the Baltimore Sofa is upholstered in two colors of silk and a very dark finish named Sable. This classic 18th Century form has become very modern in this application of finish and fabric.
Selecting pieces for your home is a very personal decision. No one should have to settle for off the shelf things when they could have just Had It Made!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lean Thinking in Lean Times

It is human nature to do the urgent things each day. It is much harder to do the important things. We are all guilty of this. Our EDGE culture keeps us focused on the important things that helps us move forward. In difficult times we focus on the important things that will allow us to get better. How do I define better? Faster delivery, better quality, more flexibility to do custom things and the friendliest/helpful people to deal with. We are all focused on this at Hickory Chair.

Want to learn more about our culture? We are honored to be included in a newly published book entitled: Sustaining Lean: Case Studies in Transforming Culture. Hickory Chair has the great honor of being one of the companies who is detailed in a chapter of the book. We are fortunate that as we began the journey in 1997 of continuous improvement which included a change in our company culture that we have been able to continue to transform and sustain our culture. We are fortunate that our employees have supported this since 1997. It has allowed us to survive in difficult times. It has allowed us to transform not only our culture but also our product line, options and has created the flexibilty to make one of a kind pieces.

Interested in learning more without purchasing a book? Listed below is a link to a paper published by Deborah Porto and Michael Smith, Phd. that was the foundation for the new book! Click here!

Being Creative

Being creative is easy with Hickory Chair. Thomas O'Brien designed the very modern 2209-30 Annie Ottoman for his TOB Collection (shown right). It is a classic modern mid-Century form with its triangular top, its turned tapered legs and custom made ferrules.
Shown left is the same Annie Ottoman with a special construction request. This designer loved the triangular shape but wanted a kick pleat skirt added. The designer also requested that we make it with pleated corners. We were easily able to honor this special construction request.
We have learned this year from our HCC University Alumni is that customers are reserved in their purchases. There is great resistance to buying 'stuff' if it is not special. They will invest in things that are exactly what they want. With our ability to accomodate special construction requests why struggle to go from catalog to catalog when we can make a one of a kind piece for you?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Vintage Hickory Chair

With our HCC University events over the past two weeks I have had the opportunity to spend time with our employees sharing their amazing skill with our guests. Each time I hear their enthusiasm for continuous improvement and joy in making one of a kind pieces to order, it makes me so proud that our 600,000 square foot workshop is still here in Hickory, North Carolina. Our ability to make personalized pieces are a result of these artisans being located here in our American facility.

My day was made earlier this week when I received an email through our web site that said: "Just thought someone in your company may be interested in the fact that we have in our family a set of well used, twin maple bedsteads, dating to about 1928. The name on the back of the headboard is Hickory Chair Mfg. Co., Hickory, NC. It was purchased in a store in Poughkeepsie, NY, as a wedding gift for my parents. Though a tad scarred, the bedsteads are still extraordinarily sturdy and in no danger of falling apart. Excellent quality. Should last for centuries." I have asked for a picture of these amazing vintage pieces which the owner promises to share.

My thoughts have wandered to this family that has cherished these heirloom pieces of Hickory Chair. What an honor it is to know that our pieces have so many of their family's memories surrounding them. I bet there are many families with similar stories to share. We are listening if you have one to share.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Special Construction Requests

Every day we receive requests for personalization through Special Construction requests. I continue to be made proud by the many incredible custom requests that we are able to accomodate! As I was giving a tour yesterday for our HCC University Supplier group and several community college executives that focus on supporting local business and industry, we stopped at a bulletin board by the area where we make the one of a kind Milo tables. On this bulletin board were several pictures of chests where the customer had asked for different fronts than the piece had been designed to have for COHTM hardware.

These types of personalization requests are embraced by Hickory Chair craftsman. They look forward to these one of a kind requests. With great pride they think about each special request to visualize how it would look and then to determine how they can make that piece the way the customer wants it. When you order a Hickory Chair piece, you should know that "I have it MADE."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Keep Firebonz Friends In Your Thoughts And Prayers

Each of our HCC University groups over the past few years has enjoyed a crazy, casual Southern dinner of everything from BBQ, ribs, and all things fried from pickles to oreos. We may enter as strangers but we leave as new friends.

It is with regret that I must share the terrible events of the weekend. On Friday a car lost control and crashed into the side of the restaurant. Then during dinner on Saturday evening a fire broke out. I happened to be dining nearby and saw the fire trucks, police cars and ambulances that were fighting the fire and assisting the guests and staff.

Please keep Jamie, Doug, David, Amber and the rest of our friends at Firebonz in your thoughts and prayers. I am sure they will feel your support. As one who has experienced losing a home to fire, it is the thoughts, prayers and support from friends, family and complete strangers that makes all the difference in how get you through difficult times when you do not know how you will make it through the day.
Hopefully the restaurant will be repaired quickly so that the staff will be able to return to their jobs soon!

Friday, May 15, 2009

I Was Impressed By...

Each HCC University event reveals the personal thoughts and impressions from each participant. This HCC University group spent one day in Hickory touring the great work rooms that hand make Upholstery and Wood products. The second day we drove to the High Point Showroom and toured it with our great hosts, Ron Fiore and Cathy Mitchell.
We had the great fortune to have Franki Durbin, author of and Cassandra LaValle, author of to join us for HCC University this week! They are amazing ladies that we enjoy following now on their blogs! Click on these links and they will take you to their blog to one of their Hickory Chair stories! Enjoy!

Some of our favorite comments this week were:

- I was impressed with the employees! You can tell that they feel good about what they are doing and that not only do they enjoy it but they take great pride as well. All of us spend more time at work than home. It is important to feel good about your work.

- I could not believe all of the special construction requests being made. I learned so many things that I do not know Hickory Chair could do.

- The pride the craftsmen take with their job.

- I loved how light and cheerful the factory was. It was not dark and dreary. You could feel the camaraderie between not only people in that department but with Jay and everyone. It was not like a factory. It was more like a work room.

- By your honesty. You promise a high quality product and we saw that being made today. That no idea is a bad idea. You are true to your word.

- Because of the respect you have on every level, you can offer all the personalization which helps us give our clients what they want.

- I got the feeling that every piece was being made for me and my client like a custom shop.

- You have total confidence to open up yourself to us. You did not hide your imperfections.

- Seeing new market introductions being made one week after market was over!

- Customization is integrated into the process. It does not slow down the process because you have embraced it!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tell Me A Story

We listened and have made it so! We have updated the homepage with some new features! What does Hickory Chair do that is unique? We hand MAKE furniture to order. We hand make furniture in HICKORY, NORTH CAROLINA - in fact 87% is MADE in Hickory. Where do you BEGIN to make it yours? From the homepage you now have 3 new flash messages that help us share our story.

Coming soon are more new features for!

P.S. For a sneak preview of the new market introductions, go to and LOG IN with your Homebase ID and Password. Then on the left hand side of the page you will find a link to PRESS RELEASES. Click on this and you will see pictures of many of the new introductions as well as the written releases that are at the bottom of the page!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What an honor!

We have just completed a fantastic Hickory Chair University event! Our group is from Georgia, Pennsylvania, Washington state, Ontario, Missouri, New Mexico, South Carolina, Colorado, New York and Minneapolis. We enjoyed a great day touring the factory on Tuesday and then today we toured the High Point Showroom!

We collected wishes that we are already brainstorming on how to make come true. This particular group had tremendous energy and ideas for ways to stay in touch and share the personalized pieces we hand make through the web site.

We were honored to have the blog authors of and coco+kelley join us for HCC University. We appreicate their time and enthusiasm for the the hand made products made in Hickory!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hickory Chair at The Cincinnatian Hotel!

We have had the great honor to be selected by The Cincinnatian hotel as the company that has the right product and flexibility to assist them in the renovation of their historic hotel. Established in 1882, and located in downtown Cincinnati, The Cincinnatian Hotel "is a luxury AAA Four Diamond hotel that epitomizes modern luxury in a historic setting".

When you visit the historic hotel you are immediately greeted by Hickory Chair pieces not only in the lobby and concierge's desk, but also in the bar and restaurant. Many of the suites have Hickory Chair pieces adorning them as well.

This luxury suite features many of our pieces including the upholstered Venetian Bed, Andrew Side Tables, a Camden Love Seat, a Darlington Desk, an Addison Side Chair and a Morgan Media Cabinet!
The hotel is beautiful and we are very proud to be selected to help continue the legacy of this historic hotel. We would recommend that you plan a vacation or business trip that would allow you to stay at The Cincinnatian Hotel!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Passion Is Free So Why Do So Few Have It?

This morning we had our quarterly employee meetings with Jay. We reveiwed our first quarter's successes and are now focused on the many opportuntites we have to make our second quarter even stronger than the first. We look forward to our weekly department meetings as well but this 'state of the union' helps us see the bigger picture and motivates us to focus on what we can do to help our entire family.

- We are so excited to know that we have already had 604 employee ideas submitted with 80% completed! This pace would generate over 2400 ideas this year which is about 1000 more than any other year ever! EDGE is working harder than ever for us!

- We are enjoying the rewards of our recycling/repurpose/redesign program. How can we measure that? In 2006 each employee generated 1.3 tons of landfill matter. This year we are on a pace of .4 tons per employee generated! This is a huge impact on the environment!

- We had more positive reaction to our showroom, options and new products at Market than ever before. Some comments were "with your new Silhouettes Upholstery program it will give me the opportunity to achieve just the right custom piece for my clients and it will ship in the same 14-21 day period!" Another commented "customers that are investing in their homes today do not want to settle for something close to what they want, with Silhouettes Upholstery if they want a different arm or a decorative leg, we can provide that for them and not start over trying to find an entirely new piece for them". Lastly and maybe the most important is that "this will save me time and that will let me focus on more sales!".

- We have 40 individuals coming to HCC University next week. We can not wait to show them what you have experienced already. A few in the group are coming for their 'masters degree' because they have not seen Hickory Chair in over 3 years! I bet they will be amazed at how we have evolved since their last visit!

- We have openings this summer in our future events so please share this with your co-workers that have not attended HCC University before. If you would like to come again, please speak with your Hickory Chair sales representative. Our upcoming dates are:

May 31st - June 2nd

July 20th - July 22nd

August 2nd - August 4th

So, after reading all of this, I hope you can feel the passion of everyone here at Hickory Chair. We are very excited about implementing your wishes and are focused on giving you the product, service and loyalty you need to please your clients. We wonder what this world would be like if more people could be as passionate as you are about your design and we are about making each piece for you.

Thank you for reading today's message and sharing it with a friend! Passion is free...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Suzanne Kasler & Hickory Chair In The News!

Ellen Gefen of Industry Update and visited the Hickory Chair Showroom during the Spring market. She is a great supporter of Hickory Chair and we can always count on her to come see our color and style trends.

She recently shared on a story about using color and accessories to create a fresh new look. She interviewed Suzanne Kasler in the Hickory Chair showroom during the Fall 2008 market. The message is as relevant today as it was when she captured this beautiful room inspired by a trip to Africa by Suzanne and her family. Most pieces were upholstered in natural linen or neutral prints but with a punch of yellow linen and an ethnic woven on the armless chairs, her African accessories created a dynamic room!

Enjoy the full interview by clicking on the link: