Schnadig Furniture – Schnadig International Furniture Discount Store and Showroom in Hickory NC

Schnadig Furniture

With a proud heritage that can be traced back to 1880, Schnadig International Corp. has long stood for well designed, well made furniture. We offer value with a surprising mix of styling, special designer details, modern day comfort and exquisite craftsmanship …

Tell me where you were born, tell me about your parents, your background, when you were young, about your education — that sort of thing. Start out by telling me the origin of your parents, where they live. I was born in My first recollection of the furniture industry is going with my father on Sunday mornings to Pullman Couch Company. During that time he would do things on an old roll-top desk in an old factory, and I would simply run around and not bother him.

My mother was a minority farm girl. My early education was in a private high school called Harvard School for Boys. I graduated from that school and went into the University of Pennsylvania at the Wharton School of Finance. What town are you talking about? It was strictly a business school, well-recognized then and well-recognized now. I was there for four years, in Tell me a little about the matriculation.

What are your memories of the University of Pennsylvania and that sort of thing? When I went to the University of Pennsylvania, I was overwhelmed by the size of it.

I was homesick; I am sure, for a month or two until I adjusted to that size of institution. It was a time when you were left completely on your own, no supervision of any kind. Doing your school work was up to you. I was fortunate in having some outstanding professors; they were all worthwhile, worth listening to. I like to think I learned a great deal from them.

One thing we all did, because you could buy stocks on margins, we would buy and sell stocks between classes. It seemed like I would never have to work at all because we were making money so fast. It was all on the cuff and all on paper, but I thought it was real. Along came at which time the stock market took a tremendous drop. At that time, nobody had any money to spend, including my own family. In order to continue my education and not be a burden to my parents, I got a job driving a taxicab at night.

After the stock market crash, I went to school in the day and drove a taxicab at night. One thing I did learn as the result of was that I knew nothing about the stock market, and I consciously avoided it thereafter. You say that was ? I graduated in , and even though the Depression was well along, there were many corporations that would interview students for employment. I got home and told my father about my plans.

He told me, that unbeknownst to me, his health conditions were quite serious, and even though he only owned a minority in the Pullman Couch Company, he would like for me not to go to The Scott Paper Company because of his health and join the Pullman Couch Company instead.

I did so. Two years prior to my graduation, I worked one summer as a salesperson in a department store called The Davis Company. Not knowing any better, I took whatever customer I could get and tried to sell them anything I could. Having graduated from school, I went to work for the Pullman Couch Company.

Subsequent to graduation, I did go to work for the Pullman Couch Company. This was not a bad salary, because the money would buy something. You did not ask what pension plans they had or what insurance plans were available or the work hours or anything like that. I started in what they called the cost accounting department. However, it was not a cost accounting department; it was a cost estimating department, because the cost accounting did not tie in with the general books of the corporation.

I soon learned that that was not where I wanted to spend the rest of my life. Then I was moved into the manufacturing end of the business, and I worked in every department in the factory. The factory was located on 38th and Ashland Avenue, which was about two or three miles south of the Stock Yards.

In those days, the Stock Yards in Chicago were a major industry. In hot weather, really all the time, there was a terrific odor that came from the Stock Yards. People would come to see us and comment on the odor. But everyone else, other than those who worked in the area, was aware of it. I worked in every department in the factory. The store people not wanting to come to the Stock Yards because they smelled badly?

The sales were in Chicago. We had a permanent showroom at the Market. At Market time, or anytime in between that a customer cared to see our product, we were able to show our product at anytime at that Market.

In , I worked there in the shipping and receiving department. It was down in the basement. The crated furniture there was no such thing as cartoned furniture would come in on wagons, horse-drawn, go down in the basement, and there they would have to have an extra team of horses to pull up the wagons. This impressed me because I had never been that close to horses before. Our job in the basement was to knock apart the crates, supposedly carefully, carefully remove the furniture, put it on skids, and take it up to the showroom floor where it was being displayed.

I think the pay there was 30 cents an hour. That too, while it sounded bad, was not so terrible because you could buy a cup of coffee for a nickel and a sandwich for a dime.

So I was able to persuade my father and my uncle, my uncle being a majority owner of the business, to let me get into the selling end, providing I would continue to superintend the plant, which I was doing by that time. You went into selling but you were plant superintendent? I enjoyed the selling end of the business very much and hoped that someday I would have a sales territory. The business continued. Business conditions in the furniture industry continued to be very poor. Chicago was a tremendous center of upholstered furniture manufacturing.

There probably were as many as 20 upholstered furniture factories. I mean factories that had from people up. The particular factory of which I was superintendent had about people when I first got the job and had about people at the depth of the Depression.

The wages in the factory were 30 cents an hour, and you had no trouble getting people, even experienced people. There were all levels of furniture made, from very low-priced to very high-priced. We were about in the middle. How did you do on your sales? I knew the product very well, having grown up inside the factory. I finally learned that I better get on their wavelength.

By finally paying close attention to the buyers, I got to the point where I could present my product and get an intelligent audience. I gradually learned how to take my knowledge of the product and translate it to a buyer. Other people with much less education were far better at the sales end. But I had an opportunity to acquire it by my failures. In my next job with Pullman I had a sales territory in Ohio and by that time, I was less offensive in presenting my product, and was able to do a reasonable job in spite of the Depression simply by extremely hard work.

I did have knowledge of the product. Tell me about the line you were selling — the kind of furniture it was, the prices, that kind of thing, styling It was quite diversified. It was what is widely known in the trade as borax furniture or mousey-looking. SCHNADIG: Much of the designing in the upholstering furniture business in those days, and even today, was done by the proprietors in conjunction with a house designer.

Low price points. You say it was borax? The quality was always a well-made product in frame, filling material, covering and so forth. We were not strictly a price house; we were little income and up. There was a building in Chicago called The Pullman Building. They made the deal in The Pullman Building over a luncheon.

Before we go on, you mentioned your father, an American-born man. Give us a little bit of a background on your dad and what he did, and your uncle and what he did, and their relationship and how they got into the business.

My uncle came to this country from Russia, probably as a or year-old boy. He started out making a living by taking photos of farmers and their families, having the photographs developed and subsequently sending them the pictures and getting paid for them. In the process of traveling through that part of the country, he learned a little English and he learned a little Swedish, because they were basically Scandinavian people.

Then, in addition to the picture-taking, he was given certain things to sell. He was traveling the countryside anyhow, so in addition to the picture-taking thing, he sold a certain amount of product. He supplied the photography equipment? Did he travel in a wagon?

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