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Closing of Henkel Harris will be ‘very sad day'

It is indeed a very sad day in the furniture industry when you reported (on Oct. 31) that Henkel Harris will cease production at this year's end. As the purveyors of "just possibly America's finest furniture," their 18th century reproductions represent a lasting tribute to the lost art of handcraftsmanship.
     Inspired by American antiques, each Henkel Harris piece reflected a purity of design and meticulous attention to detail that is as much a part of our American heritage as a Norman Rockwell painting, or a trip to Monticello, or to a Civil War battlefield.
     In a culture consumed with social media and disposable everything - including wood furniture - I guess the demise of domestic fine furniture companies like Henkel Harris and Statton Furniture Mfg. should come as no surprise to observers of our industry.
     Furniture companies with integrity and a respect for quality and our history have given way to Restoration Hardware and their 690-page catalog that is distributed to 26 million affluent households. On the inside cover of this tome, their message is pitched by (former) CEO Gary Friedman, who is resplendently attired in a T-shirt, bomber jacket and week-old beard.
     He extols us in this behemoth marketing tool to "FEARLESSLY fight for what we believe in and remain HOPELESSLY optimistic about life, love and the future." Carpe diem and ephemeral mumbo jumbo at its best! Why not add sex, drugs and rock and roll?
     Why would today's consumer want to hear about "good product?" There was a time when good product was a given in this industry. That product, hopefully, was supported by good marketing. Restoration Hardware seems to think themselves the savviest marketers. They seem to care nothing about presenting quality product that will stand the test of time. Marketing is paramount.
     I am grateful that in the future, Americans will continue to have the opportunity to enjoy Rockwell exhibitions that portray the "average" American life in this time, Civil War battlefields, which have been saved by the Civil War Trust, and Thomas Jefferson's legacy, preserved by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation.
     Regrettably, only the few who own or inherit fine furniture manufactured from our recent past will enjoy the heirloom furniture that is actually an integral part, a legacy of our American history. These stellar companies are ceasing to exist - a true loss to the furniture industry, but an even more devastating blow to the exceptional craftsmen they employed. These craftsmen, sometimes third or fourth generation, no longer have a job, much less the promise of a future one. What a travesty; what a terrible loss all around.

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