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Havertys, Ashley honored at Leadership Conference

F|T awards salute true game-changers

Furniture/Today’sFurniture/Today’s Ray Allegrezza, left, and Dwayne Welch, right, of Hickory Springs Mfg. present Havertys executives Barry Edleman, Tim Hart, Dennis Fink, Rawson Haverty Jr., Richard Gallagher and Rhonda Wolf with the Retailer of the Year Award.
NAPLES, Fla. - At its annual Leadership Conference here this month, Furniture/Today honored two industry giants that have grown their businesses in good times and in bad throughout their long histories.
     Havertys received the 2011 Retailer of the Year Award and Ashley Furniture Inds. was named 2011 Supplier of the Year.
     Hickory Springs Mfg. sponsored the awards and the awards dinner.
     Havertys, founded by J.J. Haverty in 1885 with one store in Atlanta, has grown to 120-plus stores in 17 states. With more than 4.2 million square feet of retail floor space, it had 2010 sales of $620.3 million and employs 3,000.
     Company President and CEO Clarence Smith, who was recuperating from knee surgery, could not attend the ceremony. However, in a video presentation at the event, he called to mind the days when the company delivered furniture with "horse-drawn wagons on gaslit streets."
     "We survived the Great Depression and other difficulties as we saw countless competitors fall by the wayside," he said. "Without fail, we adjusted to the challenges of the time and grew. The key to the company's longevity is our people. Havertys could not be where we are today without the dedication and hard work of our associates."
     Standing in for Smith at the ceremony were L. Phillip Humann, Havertys' non-executive board chairman, and Dennis Fink, chief financial officer.
     "I am very fortunate to have a 20-year association with Havertys as a director," Humann said. "I am very pleased to be associated with a company that is not only very high quality, but as (Furniture/Today Editor-in-Chief) Ray Allegrezza said, has been around 125 years.... They have great products, great people and a geographic presence that is second to none."
     A banker by trade, Humann also praised the company for its strong balance sheet, with no debt.
     Fink encouraged the industry to focus on sound business principals to keep capturing its share of consumer spending.
     "Our goal as an industry is to be the best we can be and compete hard with each other on the right playing field so consumers will invest in our category," he said.
AllegrezzaAllegrezza, left, and Welch, right, present the Supplier of the Year Award to Ron and Todd Wanek of Ashley Furniture Inds.
     Leaders from Ashley Furniture Inds., including Chairman Ron Wanek and President and CEO Todd Wanek, accepted the supplier award.
     Founded by Carlyle Weinberger in 1945 as a sales organization in Chicago, Ashley Furniture began distributing tables made by Arcadia Table, founded by Ron Wanek. Located in Arcadia, Wis., that company opened its first 35,000-square foot plant in 1970 with 35 employees.
     Arcadia Table acquired Ashley in 1976 and merged the two companies in 1982. Still based in Arcadia, Ashley's sales have grown from $16 million in 1982 to more than $3 billion. It employs 18,000 around the world, including at its U.S. and overseas plants, which produce an extensive line of case goods, upholstery and youth and occasional furniture.
     "We have done this not only by expanding our operations in Arcadia, Wis., but also in Mississippi, California, Pennsylvania and Florida," Todd Wanek said in a video presentation. "In addition we have been doing business overseas for over 25 years. We have facilities in China and Vietnam, and we also trading offices in India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand."
     Also attending the event was former Broyhill Furniture Inds. Chairman Paul Broyhill, who received a Game Changer award from Furniture/Today recognizing his lifetime of industry achievement.
     Broyhill said the Havertys and Waneks are great furniture industry families. He said in reference to Ron Wanek, "He is not just the supplier of the year. He is the supplier of the millennium."
     Some of the growth is due to growth in international sales, an area led by Ron Wanek's daughter Shari Wagner, Ashley executive vice president. He commended her on developing business in as many as 123 foreign countries where Ashley is sold today.
     Ron Wanek also commended his son, Todd, who became president and CEO in 2002. By then, the company had reached $1 billion sales, largely though years of 22% compounded growth.
     At the time, Wanek said he assured his son that he didn't need to worry about achieving such growth right away.
"Five to 10% is just fine," he said.
     Some days later, Ron Wanek said, Todd approached him somewhat agitated.
     "This 5% is bull...," he recalled Todd saying. "We're sending it at 22%."
     Ron Wanek said the last couple of years have been challenging, but said that he and Todd have been blessed with the support of their wives.

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