Sauder Woodworking thrives in ArchboldWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sauder Woodworking Company in Archbold generated $450 million in business in 2011 and is off to an encouraging start in 2012, according to President and CEO Kevin Sauder who spoke at a luncheon held March 12 by the Rotary Club of Toledo and UT Center for Family and Privately-held Business.
Sauder is the third generation of his family to lead the business that has become the largest producer of ready-to-assemble (RTA) furniture and eighth largest manufacturer of furniture in the U.S., according to industry sources.
“We’re very proud to be part of the growing economy in Northwest Ohio,” Sauder said. “We’re a non-union shop that pays union wages with a great work force and community support.”
He said they expected their business to grow by 6 percent to 8 percent in 2012 but it has grown by 15 percent during the past six months. Sauder employs a total of 2,300 employees, most living in Archbold and nearby communities.
Sauder said the company has entered into two new markets now making caskets and wood-grained ceiling systems. It also has new contract work making all the kitchen cabinets sold in North America by Swedish retailer IKEA.
Sauder said it all started in 1934 when his grandfather, Erie Sauder, started making kitchen cabinets out of the barn on the family’s property. He and his wife worked in the barn building cabinets, chicken coops and other assorted items.
A few years later, a nearby church burned down. Erie won the job of building new pews and expanded his business into church furniture. Through a subsidiary, Sauder Manufacturing, the company still makes about $65 million in church furniture today, Kevin said.
The company began making small inexpensive tables from maple, oak and walnut scraps left on the floor of the shop at the end of each day. Ernie called them “low-priced leftovers.”
One day in 1940, two traveling salesmen stopped by Sauder’s shop. They were intrigued by his low-priced tables and asked if they could take some samples to a furniture show in Chicago.
Sauder said they later returned with an order for 25,000 tables. Erie was stunned by the request and not sure that they could produce such a large quantity in his modest shop.
Erie secured a loan from a nearby bank that he used to incorporate his business, expand his production facilities and hire more workers. With the help of friends, relatives and workers, they were able to fill the order.
Sauder Woodworking grew with the post-World War II economic boom and demand for furniture. They received a request from a Detroit retailer in 1951 to figure out a way to make furniture lay flat in a box to significantly reduce shipping and storage costs.
Sauder envisioned and built a snap-together table that customers could build in their homes. With the patent he obtained for it, the company established the ready-to-assemble furniture industry.
Erie retired in 1974 when the company’s sales reached $12 million annually. His son, Maynard took over the company with his brother, Myrl, who was in charge of engineering, research, and development.
Maynard was responsible for the company’s investment in new production facilities in the 1990s that allowed its growth to continue. Sauder began mass production of furniture made with German equipment in what now includes 4 million square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space.
The company made and marketed RTA furniture including the first microwave cart on wheels, stereo, TV and entertainment centers for home use. Sauder products are sold through major national retailers with Walmart being the largest, as well as Target, Lowe’s, Best Buy, and The Andersons of Maumee.
Maynard’s son Kevin joined the business in 1988 after earning a bachelor’s degree from Miami University and MBA from Duke University. He worked in the Triangle Research Park in North Carolina for three years before returning home to the family business.
Kevin got the company involved in making home office furniture sold in the office superstores such as Office Max, Office Depot and Staples.
“We’ve had a very good relationship with Walmart and all of our retail partners,” Kevin said.
Kevin was named president in 1999 and president and CEO in 2001. Maynard served as chairman until he retired in December of 2011. Myrl now serves as chairman of the company.
Kevin is responsible for management and marketing for the company, while his brother, Dan, serves as executive vice president of engineering and product development, and brother-in-law Garrett Tinsmen as executive vice president of manufacturing operations.
One sister, Debbie, is executive director of the Historic Sauder Village in Archbold that will reopen May 1. Another sister, Diane, is a social worker and not involved in the family business.
Sauder acquired Progressive Furniture in 2001, adding health care furniture to diversify its business. It purchased Studio RTA in Los Angeles in 2003.
Today, Sauder produces and ships more than 40,000 furniture items each day that are sold in more than 70 countries.
Sauder designed and constructed a power-generating plant that converts sawdust into electricity. The plant burns more than 145 tons of sawdust every day, according to the company.
For more information, go to www.sauder.com.