Tessau retires after 38 years at Thomasville
Thomas Russell -- Furniture Today, July 29, 2013
THOMASVILLE, N.C. - Ryan Tessau admits he made a deal with God when interviewing with Thomasville Furniture in 1974.
The young Iowa native promised that if given the chance to join the company, he wouldn't want for another job.
His prayers were answered. Tessau, who turned 66 in June, also kept his end of the bargain.
Now nearly 39 years later, he is retiring from the company where he spent all but five years of his career since graduating from Iowa State University with a degree in interior design in 1969. Tessau looks back fondly on his years with Thomasville, where his roles have ranged from showroom designer to his current position of director of wood development.
He said he chose to stay at the company because of his desire to work for a furniture manufacturer. But he also has enjoyed the people.
"Thomasville is a wonderful company, and the people I have worked with throughout the years are absolutely awesome," he said. "It is a family. The people at Thomasville and the spirit of the company are what have kept me here."
His first job was with a floor covering and window treatment company in Ames, Iowa, where he worked for about nine months.
At the advice of a client, he then moved to North Carolina in search of a job in the furniture industry.
After moving to the High Point area, Tessau landed a job at Guilford Galleries, a design studio and furniture store in nearby Greensboro, N.C. He worked there for four years as a showroom designer, then landed his first job at Thomasville.
He started with the company in December 1974 as a showroom designer, a role in which he helped get the company's 100,000-square-foot showroom ready for markets. He did that until 1981, when he was promoted to manager of the retail design department, which initially involved setting up galleries. By 1983 he was managing a group of designers who helped set up the floors of Thomasville stores.
In 1992, while still holding some of his responsibilities on the retail side, he began to manage the company's bedding program. In that role, he served as liaison between the company and bedding manufacturers that supplied product for the company's stores.
His next role with the company was product development manager for imports and specialty products. Working under former general manager of sales and marketing Jim Adams, he dealt with imports that at first came in mostly from Europe and the Philippines but slowly shifted to Taiwan and China.
He recalls when Thomasville brought in its first bedroom from Taiwan - Chateau Provence -in early 2000. Eventually, the company began to import full collections from China.
The company also continued to import from the Philippines, which was instrumental in its development of its successful licensed Ernest Hemingway collection.
"If there was one collection that started the whole (import) trend for us, it was Hemingway," Tessau said. "It let us blossom what we were doing with imports."
Tessau has been director of wood development since 2007. Looking back, he said he is proud of his involvement in many collections, including the Hemingway line. Other successful collections he has been involved in include the industrial- inspired Reinventions, the Louis Philippe-inspired Deschanel, and the updated traditional Spellbound.
He has worked under eight Thomasville presidents and many other executives he says he still respects today.
"It has just been a pleasure for me to have learned from all these great people in our industry, and it continues to be a learning experience," he said. "I love everything about what I have done in this industry - I have been blessed."
Tom Tilley, a former Thomasville president who worked with Tessau for 17 years, called him an "exceptional team player."
"Throughout his long 38- year career, he has been a selfless and tireless ambassador for the Thomasville brand with his fellow employees, customers and suppliers worldwide," Tilley said. "His terrific sense of humor will be greatly missed in the halls of TFI."
"The Thomasville brand was incredibly impacted by Ryan Tessau," said Ralph Scozzafava, CEO of parent company Furniture Brands International. "From his earlier years in showroom and gallery design to his later years in product development, the brand wouldn't have been the same without him. We wish him well and thank him for 38 amazing years of service to our company."
Tessau, whose last day was at the end of June, said he looks forward to traveling, including a trip to Italy planned during the fall market. He also wants to spend more time with family, including his three grandsons who live in the area.
He said he is also open to doing some consulting work in in his newly found spare time.