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Thomas Russell

Kittle's, Hickory honored

Eric Easter, left,Eric Easter, left, and Jim Kittle, of Indianapolis-based Kittle’s Furniture accept the 2012 Retailer of the Year Award at the Furniture/Today Leadership Conference.
NAPLES, Fla. - At its annual Leadership Conference held here recently, Furniture/Today presented its 2012 Retailer of the Year and Supplier of the Year awards to two companies that have shown resilience over the years, offering real world examples of how to succeed in good times and bad.
     Named Supplier of the Year was Hickory Springs Mfg., which was formed 68 years ago as a producer of coiled furniture springs. Over the years, it has grown to become a global manufacturer of innovative components for the bedding and upholstery segments of the business, with more than 50 plants that employ about 2,500 workers in 16 states and in China.
     Accepting the Retailer of the Year Award for Indianapolis- based Top 100 store Kittle's Furniture was Jim Kittle, whose grandparents launched the company in 1932. Kittle, who joined the company in 1967, watched the company grow from $3 million in sales to $78 million generated last year in the dozen-store network.
     Hickory Springs is one of the largest producers of foam in the United States, and also sells metal components such as motion furniture mechanisms, coiled springs and sinuous wire products for upholstery and bedding and the automotive, maintenance and retail sectors. It also produces sleeper mechanisms and has a line of sleeper mattresses, polyester fiber cushioning and extruded plastics and batting materials for furniture and bedding.
     Accepting the award for the company was Dave Colburn, president and CEO, who praised the company's business partners and employees.
     "None of our success would be possible without our furniture and retail partners," he said, while also acknowledging the efforts of its workers. He said he recently attended a service awards banquet to recognize employees with many years of service, some of whom had been with the company more than 46 years.
     "You don't see that level of loyalty around anymore, but you see it at Hickory Springs," Colburn said. "That team is what has distinguished Hickory Springs over its 68-year history. That depth of experience has built a rich and distinguished legacy and has made Hickory Springs what it is today."
     "For our 2,500-plus employees, I say a heartfelt thank you for this award," he added.
     "I am honored for Kittle's and am honored for our team," said Jim Kittle, who retired from active management in 2010 and now serves as chairman of the retailer.
Honored as SupplierHonored as Supplier of the Year was Hickory Springs Mfg., represented by Dwayne Welch, left, David Duncan, Dave Colburn and Buster Mann.

     Kittle reflected on the company's storied history, from his grandfather's early days selling refrigerators door to door to his first 1,500-square-foot showroom in downtown Indianapolis. He also reflected on the contributions of key executives including former CEO and vice chairman John Durkott, who joined the company in 1973 as well as the support of his brother, John Kittle, who retired from the business around 1998.
     He also cited the support the company has received from current President and CEO Eric Easter, who joined the company in 1993 as general merchandise manager and who left 10 years later to pursue executive roles at Thomasville and later Huntington Furniture. Easter rejoined the company in 2009 as president and chief operating officer and was given the CEO title in early 2010 when Durkott became vice chairman. Durkott retired earlier this year after more than 40 years of service.
     Speaking to conference attendees at the awards banquet, Easter said the award was a "great way to pay tribute to the incredible efforts of our 364 full and part-time associates.... They're the folks I am so lucky to get to work with every single day, and they're the ones who are responsible for any success we might have."
     "They're part of a very special culture that believes you win by serving," he added. "Serving means anticipating and responding to the customers' changing needs.... But as much as these needs have changed from the customer's perspective, Kittle's has changed even more. And there's much more change on the horizon, which is why we are so excited about our future."
     Easter also thanked Jim Kittle and thanked the retailer's business partners, many of whom also attended the conference.
     "We wouldn't be here without you," he said. "Your support and willingness to challenge us makes us better."

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