One couple with great aspirations certainly had their work cut out for them when they decided to purchase a struggling furniture company with a sterling reputation.
That company, L. & J.G. Stickley, was known for its beautiful furniture and fine workmanship, but had only 25 employees and $235,000 in annual sales in 1974 when Alfred and Aminy Audi took over its helm.
That same company now boasts 1,500 employees, 14 company-owned showrooms throughout the country, 150 dealers nationwide and an international division. In addition, the company is “continuously investing in new designs and technology to keep ahead of the curve,” Aminy Audi, president and chief executive officer of L. & J.G. Stickley, said. “We are a company on the move. We also have purchased five other companies over the years – including John Widdicomb, the crown jewel of the furniture industry and more recently Nichols & Stone.”
“In the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, the company was successful, but after Mr. Stickley’s death in 1957, his wife Louise inherited the business and it was difficult for her,” said Audi. “Many of the dealers gave up – they’d have to wait two years for their order to come in.”
She and her husband, who passed away in 2007, decided on a game plan for making the company a success.
“When we first bought Stickley, our first priority was to hire and train the right people, then introduce new product and open new dealers,” Audi said. “Over the years we have also diversified our product offering. In addition to our trademark Mission style, which we reissued in 1989, we now offer contemporary, traditional and casual designs. The upholstery and leather, which we manufacture in our plant in North Carolina, represent the softer side of Stickley. Comfortable and cutting edge, they are available in over a thousand fabrics and leather. Our large gallery of Oriental rugs, many of which we design and import directly, represent a great value and add beauty to any room,” Audi said.
Audi also credits her staff for the top-notch service that is associated with Stickley. “The people who work at Stickley make the difference,” she said.
Besides the many craftsmen and other employees, the company employs interior designers who will not only help clients select products in the showroom, but will also make house calls. “They will help customers pick out what is right for them and help them with the layout of their rooms,” Audi said. “They are very talented and have transformed many homes for people.”
The company is very much in the family. Audi’s three children, Carolyn Audi Fischi, Andrea Audi and Edward Audi, who is the company’s executive vice president and president of its international division, are all partners in the business. And the fact that it is family-owned works to the benefit of both its employees and customers.
“We tend to think long-term,” Audi said. “Throughout the years we have attracted the most talented employees and we have the most loyal customer base and dedicated dealers.”
The Stickley name has been synonymous with success, and the future looks bright, with expansion and innovation always on the horizon.
“This past year we opened a 36,000 square feet showroom in Charlotte, N.C., on Labor Day,” Audi said. “It is a great building that had been a furniture showroom previously.” The new location, Stickley’s second in Charlotte, will show both Stickley as well as other lines of furniture, similar to what is housed at the Towne Center location in Fayetteville.
But Stickley is certainly not done expanding, with a new, 22,000-square-foot showroom in Paramus, N.J. projected to open in Labor Day of this year. And Stickley is also intent on improving what it already owns, evidenced by a $700,000 upgrade to its Albany showroom which is slated for a grand-reopening this spring.
The company’s manufacturing side is also on the move, keeping at the forefront of the most current technology.
“We’ve also invested in state-of-the-art machinery in Manlius and are spending more than $3 million on an ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning] system, thus updating our information technology to make us much more efficient,” she added. “It has been a huge investment, both in capital and human resources, with so many people involved. We will go live in March.”
Stickley is also constantly working to add to its stellar lineup of products, including featuring its new Finger Lakes Collection, described by Audi as “a uniquely American perspective on classic Western design. Included in this is a custom designed dining room assortment where customers can choose their own bases and tops from the selection offered, and the tops come with different levels of distressing. This line is beautifully displayed in our Fayetteville showroom.”
Customers visiting the showroom can also see a limited edition Harvey Ellis cabinet exclusively offered in 2012 or browse the more than 1,000 Stickley fabrics available, 250 of which are brand new.
“We are always looking to improve our lines and our company, and in the future, we will continue to invest in people, product and in infrastructure. “If new opportunities present themselves, we will seize them.”
Stickley’s biggest asset
Audi said there has been a continuing demand for Stickley’s lines, which is very gratifying. “At a time when many furniture manufacturers and retailers are closing their doors or reducing their footprints, we are grateful to be in a position to expand and plan for future growth,” she said.
In fact, Stickley has not had a single layoff since 1974, which makes Audi proud. “We have been very busy – we don’t sit still, and that is why we have been able to keep two full-time shifts in Manlius.”
She said Stickley’s “biggest asset is our people. We recognize that and appreciate the benefits of having longtime employees.”
One example of the kind of loyalty that can be found at Stickley is Cindy Manning, who was recently honored for 50 years of service with the company, along with other longtime employees.
“Some of Cindy’s family also works here, including her son and daughter-in-law,” Audi said. “Together Cindy & her family have 165 years at Stickley. Also recently honored were two employees that had been here for 35 years, as well as six 30-year, six 25-year and 15 20-year employees. That kind of longevity is unusual.”
Audi said the company was also able to attract the perfect candidate for its vice president of sales, Blain Wrench, who moved here from North Carolina, and has added several dealers with previously-unrepresented areas across the country.
Customers, community are No. 1
“We are grateful to this community,” she added. “Even in this economy, we have had continued growth. This is a credit to our customers, employees and dealers, as well as to the unparalleled quality of Stickley.”
Stickley continues to add personal touches to its presence in Central New York, hosting a special Go Red for Women event, “Handbags Helping Hearts.” The showroom in Fayetteville has also been the setting for Jowonio School’s annual celebration, “Friends, Flowers and All that Jazz.”
Stickley will hold its next clearance event in March at 206 S. Main St., North Syracuse (the former Goldberg’s showroom.)
Audi called 2011 an “unusually rewarding year.”
Stickley received numerous awards this year, among them the Legacy Award from the Syracuse Business Journal and the International Center of Syracuse’s International Humanitarian Award for its work with refugees. Audi was recognized as a woman of achievement who has made a significant lifetime contribution to the home and furnishings industry with the Women in the Home Furnishing Industry’s 2011 Legacy Award and also was named International Citizen of the Year by the International Center of Syracuse.
Visit the Stickley showroom at 300 Towne Drive in Fayetteville, or call the showroom at 637-7770, the home office at 682-5500 or visit stickley.com for more information on L. & J.G. Stickley.