Norwalk Furniture to Offer Employee Stock Ownership Plan

Beginning Sept. 1, full-time Norwalk employees will be offered shares in the company through their retirement savings.

08/23/2021
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Norwalk Furniture

Known for its design-oriented, high quality, custom upholstery, Norwalk Furniture is a leading manufacturer of domestically produced seating products. Widely distributed to a national and increasingly international market, the company operates a 440,000 square foot factory in Norwalk, Ohio, where its 278 craftspeople, many of whom are second and third generation artisans, create over 40,000 pieces each year – one at a time, by hand – to the exact specifications of its customers. 

The company’s rich history of handcrafting custom upholstery began in 1902, when a young man named Ed Gerken – newly arrived from Germany – moved his upholstery company to Norwalk to upholster buggy seats for carriages. Through the leadership of the next four generations of Gerkens, the company grew to become one of the largest custom upholstery manufacturers in the nation and an invaluable member of the local Norwalk community. Still today, it is not uncommon for multiple generations of sewers, upholsterers, cutters, and framers to hand down their craft from father to son and mother to daughter.

In 2008, as the Great Recession took hold, Norwalk Furniture was forced to close its doors. A shock to the community and the many families who depended on local jobs for their livelihoods, 12 local families banded together to buy the company, assuring those jobs would remain in the local community. Matching the commitment of the 12 local families, when the doors reopened, the employees stepped forward with determination to reclaim the company’s leadership position in the furniture industry, sporting T-shirts that said, “whatever it takes.” Amid the most severe economic downturn since the 1930s, the new owners moved swiftly to re-establish the company, the employees banded together with them and together, they never looked back. 

In 2021, the investing families renewed their commitment to the future of the company and the Norwalk community, by entering into an agreement to give Norwalk’s employees full ownership of the company through an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP). Through the establishment of the ESOP, effective September 1, all 278 full-time employees will be offered shares in the company through their retirement savings. Funded entirely by the company, with no out-of-pocket investment by employees, the value of the shares at retirement will depend on the long-term performance of the organization. 

After the transition is complete, the company will continue to be led by its current executive team. Dan White, the company’s lead investor and CEO, will lead a newly formed board that includes internal and outside members, and industry veteran Caroline Hipple – who has served as president of the company since 2016 – will continue to serve as president. The existing executive team also remains in place, including: Troy Pittenger, vice president of finance; Scot Kanaly, vice president of sales; Sheila Buckingham, vice president of marketing; Tim Hallock, vice president of manufacturing; and Dixon Bartlett of HB2 resources, as Norwalk’s chief creative officer.

Throughout its storied history, Norwalk Furniture has always held localism and sustainability as key pillars of its core values. Demonstrating these values, the company’s goal is to always locate American suppliers, particularly local artisans, as it diligently works to sustain jobs for American citizens and use materials made in the USA, including local, sustainably harvested hardwood products and recycled steel for its metal components. 

In addition to providing jobs and investing in future career opportunities for the younger local workforce, the company also utilizes local services to support its operations, whenever possible. Raw materials and component parts used in manufacturing its upholstery products are sourced locally to support neighboring local businesses. For example, some of the company’s seat springs are sourced from Indiana and many wood frame parts come from the Amish factories local to the area. Local trucking, accounting, insurance and other support services are also utilized on a regular basis. 

The company has four showrooms located across the U.S. in High Point, North Carolina, Las Vegas, Atlanta as well as a factory showroom at its corporate headquarters in Norwalk, Ohio.

Norwalk Furniture offers great design, customizable options, high quality, competitive pricing and industry-leading delivery. Upholstered products are free of toxic flame-retardant chemicals and are offered in more than 800 fabrics and 150 leathers. The privately held Norwalk, Ohio, company manufactures upholstered furniture in its 440,000-square-foot facility. For more information, visit www.norwalkfurniture.com.

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