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American Furniture Hall of Fame candidates announced

Six nominees to be made Industry Fellows; up for induction
Hershel AlpertHershel Alpert Bernard CastroBernard Castro
Harry M. Cornell, Jr.; Harry M. Cornell, Jr. Donald D. DreherDonald D. Dreher
Image of Jena HallJena Hall Stuart Miller LoveStuart Miller Love

HIGH POINT — The American Furniture Hall of Fame Foundation Inc. has announced six 2014 Industry Fellows and candidates for induction into the American Furniture Hall of Fame.

The six nominees who will be made Industry Fellows at the Oct. 19 banquet are: Hershel Alpert; Bernard Castro; Harry M. Cornell, Jr.; Donald D. Dreher; Jena Goldman Hall; and Stuart Miller Love. The voting period begins June 30 and ends July 31.

“This year’s leaders who will each be made an Industry Fellow are representative of the diversity of business models today, ranging from a traditional manufacturer and a retailer, a retailer who manufactures, a vertical supplier, and a product and marketing strategist,” said Bill Kimbrell, Foundation president. “Each person on the slate has impacted our industry through a life-long career of exemplary achievement, leadership, innovation and generosity. Each nominee is undoubtedly worthy of our respect and recognition.”

Inductees will be determined by the combination of a vote of the Foundation membership and a points-based rating system of each nominee by the Foundation’s Industry Fellow Selection Committee. New members will be announced and officially inducted into the American Furniture Hall of Fame at the annual banquet celebration on Oct. 19 at the High Point Market.

During the event, each nominee will be publicly recognized and presented with a Hall of Fame pin and plaque. New inductees will be presented with the “Affie,” the highest award bestowed by the American furniture industry. The candidates were selected from open nominations and the Industry Fellows Selection Committee based on their contributions to the growth and development of the furniture industry in America with a focus on four standards: enduring excellence, superior accomplishments, innovation and creativity, and philanthropic generosity.

The nominees and their achievements are as follows:

Hershel Alpert (1932-2010) began his career working for his father’s furniture store. When his father sold the business, Alpert and his brother founded Alperts Inc., a furniture showroom and warehouse in Seekonk, Mass. After it was sold to General Cinema Corporation, Alpert continued as president, growing the business to 15 stores in four states. In 1985, Alpert, his brother and another partner bought it back. Alpert served as president and CEO for the next 35 years, during which Alperts was awarded the Brand Names Foundation Retailer of the Year and the Retailers Association of Massachusetts Retailer of the Year. He served as president and chairman of the National Home Furnishings Association and its Foundation, and in 2005 was named NHFA Retailer of the Year. In 2007, the partners sold the business with the stipulation that its 155 employees would retain their jobs. Rather than retiring at age 75, Alpert consulted and served as a faculty member and Senior Executive in Residence at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.

Bernard Castro (1904-1991) and his wife, Theresa, started with $400 in 1931 and built what would become Castro Convertibles, a manufacturer and retailer selling more than five million convertible sleeper sofas through its own 48 stores on the East Coast. An Italian immigrant who worked as a furniture apprentice while earning a degree in Interior Decoration, Castro invented many patented convertible mechanisms and gave consumers up to a million choices with 100 styles, thousands of fabrics and 10 bed sizes. The company had two large upholstery plants and a separate steel mechanism plant. The specialty stores became destination showplaces for interior design trends. Castro donated his time and resources to the home furnishings industry and his community. He received the prestigious Horatio Alger Award and an honorary doctorate from Mercy College, among many other honors. A true American patriot, he was a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, a supporter of the Florida National Guard and an honorary Green Beret.

Harry M. Cornell Jr. , chairman emeritus of Leggett & Platt Inc., built a small regional company into a Fortune 500 giant. He transformed the company from five plants and $7 million in annual sales into a $4 billion company with 130 plants in 18 countries. His many milestones include the initial public offering of Leggett & Platt common stock in 1967 and the 1979 listing on the New York Stock Exchange. As a supplier that manufactured component parts, created the machinery to make them and produced the raw materials, Cornell expanded Leggett & Platt into eight industries. A past president of the American Innerspring Manufacturer’s Association, he received the Award of Exceptional Service from the National Association of Bedding Manufacturers and CEO Awards from Financial World for five years and The Wall Street Transcript for three years. At the University of Missouri, his alma mater, the Business School was dedicated in 2002 as Cornell Hall, where he funds the Cornell Leadership Scholarship and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Law. In 1998, he was named Citizen of the Year in Carthage, Missouri, home of Leggett & Platt.

Donald Dreher transformed DMI Furniture Inc. from decline to profitability in one of the most significant turnarounds in the U.S. furniture industry. Named president and CEO in 1986, he reduced debt and generated capital by selling four manufacturing divisions and by negotiating the conversion of DMI’s preferred stock to common stock. Under Dreher’s leadership, annual sales grew from $44 million to $113 million. DMI has experienced 18 consecutive years of operating profits. Among the first in the industry to recognize the potential of importing, he transitioned DMI from domestic to international manufacturing. Dreher led DMI’s launch of Wynwood, Home Styles and the Commercial Office Division, each of which continues to be successful today. In 2003, he negotiated the sale of DMI to Flexsteel Industries, where he serves as senior vice president as well as DMI president and CEO. A former president of the American Home Furnishings Alliance (then the American Furniture Manufacturers Association), Dreher received the AHFA’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award in 2007. He also was a founding director and former president of the American Furniture Hall of Fame Foundation and an active member of the Home Furnishings Council.

Jena Goldman Hall , president and CCO of Jena Hall Associates, has created licensed programs including Jena Hall’s Inspirations from the Old Country for Broyhill Furniture as well as developing products and integrated marketing for American Leather, Johnston Casuals, DMI-Wynwood, Pennsylvania House, Vanguard Furniture, and Aspenhome where she served as executive vice president of merchandising and design. She has curated the launch and design of the HGTV Home Furniture for Bassett Furniture. In addition, Hall has created numerous merchandising concepts for retailers including JCPenney, Robb & Stucky, Macy’s, Domain, Ethan Allen and Thomasville Interiors. A five-time Pinnacle Award winner, she is credited with introducing innovative features and functions formerly reserved for custom-made and contract furniture into the mainstream furniture market. The founding president of WithIt, the women’s leadership and development network, Hall is a tireless advocate of City of Hope and the Anti-Defamation League. She has served on the High Point Market Authority Board and Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library Advisory Board. She has received the WithIt Founders Award and Lifetime Achievement Award, the American Furniture Hall of Fame Industry Fellow and the City of Hope Spirit of Life Award.

Stuart Miller Love (1929-2011) epitomized the entrepreneurial spirit and the American dream. Born into a blue-collar family, he became an upholsterer in High Point, saving enough money in 1963 for supplies to build one sofa in his carport. Five years and two moves later, Stuart Furniture Industries had grown to $1 million in sales. When sold to Hans Klaussner in 1979, annual revenue totaled more than $60 million. With his leadership team still in place, the company – renamed Klaussner Furniture – grew to $750 million in annual sales and became one of the world’s largest furniture producers. Love later went on to found Prestige Fabricators and cofounded Stuart-Clark Furniture. He transformed the traditional manufacturing process from a four- to six-week delivery model to the now-standard one- to two-week, just-in-time system. It also was one of the first furniture companies to use computers to streamline manufacturing. As one of the largest furniture employers in the Triad for many years, Love believed his greatest gift was creating job opportunities. He also contributed his time and resources to his community.

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