Phoenix Rising

Norwalk Furniture rises from the ashes and creates a unique employee-owned business providing great products to the industry.

Great design, excellent quality and innovation are factors all companies in our home market strive for. When these combine with an amazing story of an employee and customer focused company, what emerges is a very rare entity that can only grow in success for everyone involved.

A true Phoenix Rising story unfolded and now Norwalk Furniture is setting the standard for a selfless, employee centric, sky’s the limit corporation. 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 livelihood. Twelve local families, inspired by a vision to preserve a local institution banded together to buy the company, assuring those jobs would remain in the community.

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). 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.

Kudos to company CEO Dan White and President Caroline Hipple. They have set a standard for how we in the home industry can be local, successful, and innovative while benefiting the employees of a USA company.

Steve McKenzie

Founder, Principal Designer, McKenzie Design