Thomasville Furniture Industries entered the first
decade of the 20th century as the fledgling Thomasville
Chair Company in a bustling railroad-side community in
the triad area of North Carolina, near High Point, the
furniture capital. Founded in 1904, it was just one of
many chair manufacturers scattered throughout North Carolina.
It turned out 180 chairs a day and owed two local timber
farmers, T.J. Finch and his brother C.F. Finch, $2,000
When the company couldn't pay its debt in cash, the Finch
brothers reluctantly accepted stock instead and decided
to buy out the other stockholders. Business improved
immediately under the astute guidance of the Finch family
with sales topping $1 million by 1917 and the company
becoming recognized for innovations in design as well
as manufacturing quality. The Thomasville Chair Company
achieved many "firsts" for the furniture industry.
These included the first national sales force in the
furniture industry and the first American furniture company
to produce and sell an entire suite of furniture: Thomasville
dining tables, buffets and chairs.
During the 1950's, sales reached $17 million, many innovations
in machinery were made and the company's reputation for
crafting quality furniture grew. In the '60s, the company
(under the direction of Tom A. Finch) received a new
name, Thomasville Furniture Industries, Inc. In 1968,
it was acquired by Armstrong World Industries. In the
70's, Thomasville entered the contract market, providing
furnishings for hotels and inns, primarily in the United
States. In 1984, they expanded into Government sales,
and their products can be found in military facilities
worldwide. In December 1995, Thomasville was purchased
by Furniture Brands International, Inc., a major residential
furniture company located in St. Louis, MO.
The corporate offices and showrooms are still located
along the railroad tracks in Thomasville, NC. But today,
employees number over 5,800 in manufacturing facilities
in North Carolina and Virginia. More than half of the
work force is local, however, living and working in Thomasville.
The famous Big Chair, an 18-foot reproduction of a Duncan
Phyfe design (first erected in 1922 and rebuilt in 1951)
still stands in the town square as a symbol of the mutual
success of a now famous chair company - and the town
that cherishes its nickname, "Chair City".