Longtime outdoor furnishings executive Gary McCray is this year’s recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the International Casual Furnishings Association (ICFA). Earlier this spring, McCray retired as President of Klaussner Outdoor after launching the division for the whole-home producer in 2014.
The son of a premier nursery and landscaping company owner in Hickory, NC, McCray grew up riding along with his father to lush installations at prominent homes in the foothills of Western North Carolina. He joined the team at work through high school and college, where he gained a lifelong interest in creating beautiful landscapes and outdoor spaces.
Armed with a B.S. degree in Furniture Manufacturing and Management from North Carolina State University, he quickly landed at DMI Furniture in Huntingburg, Ind., as a product engineer overseeing development of wood and upholstered furniture. The opportunity to move closer to home came a few years later as he joined Venture Furniture Company, a division of the Lane Company. In the early ’80s, he traveled to Southeast Asia to develop wicker and rattan furniture. His first collections were part of the company’s debut at the outdoor furniture market in Chicago in 1983.
As the renamed Lane Venture company honed its focus in the outdoor category through the latter part of the decade, McCray led the development of WeatherMaster. This initial combination of specially treated natural wicker frames with patented, quick-dry cushions ultimately transformed the company as an exclusive outdoor furnishings resource in 2009.
During the ’90s and early 2000s, he was involved in the merger of two indoor Lane divisions into Lane Venture, which doubled the size of the company and increased the exposure of the brand. This included working with designers Raymond Waites, Kemble Interiors, celebrity chef Rachel Ray and the Eddie Bauer brand among others. In 2008, upon the retirement of Art Thompson, McCray was named president of Lane Venture.
With the company’s increased involvement in the outdoor category, McCray became active in the Summer & Casual Furniture Manufacturers Association, served on the board of directors and was named chairman in 2000-2002. During the time of his leadership, the Lifetime Achievement Award was initiated along with the transformation of independent factory shows into an industry-wide premarket show.
Innovative product development was the hallmark of McCray’s establishment of Klaussner Outdoor in 2014, including cordless outdoor motion furniture, LED-lighted accent tables and RealisTEAKTM, an engineered polymer material that has the look and feel of natural teak without the necessary routine maintenance.
He returned to leadership of the ICFA as a director in 2009 and 2010. He was elected vice chairman in 2012 and 2013, and served as chair in 2014 and 2015. During his tenure as chair, he renewed the board committee system, which collaborated to initiate ICFA’s charitable relationship with the City of Hope, create the Richard Frinier Design Scholarship, revamp the ICFA website and convene the first ICFA Educational Conference. In addition, he represented the ICFA on the board of the American Home Furnishings Alliance.
Amid ongoing concerns around COVID-19, the presentation and celebration of ICFA’s 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award has not been determined.