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Sauder Furniture Company

The Sauder name needs no introduction for most in the furniture industry. The Sauder company line of ready to assemble furniture dominates much of the retail floor space of furniture stores in America and Canada and remains ever popular. The history of Sauder Woodworking holds some interest as well.

Early History of the Sauder Company

From Little Things....

Erie Sauder, the company's founder, began a small woodworking business in a barn behind his home in Archbold, Ohio in the 1930's. Meeting with some early success he, with the aid of his wife, established the Sauder Manufacturing Company, which specialised in the making of church furniture such as pews, as well as custom built cabinets. In 1934 Sauder won the contract for the furnishing of a local church near his home in northwestern Ohio. The church had just suffered a fire and Sauder went to work producing the church pews and chancel, the whole job taking eight months.

The construction of the pews resulted in large quantities of high quality scrap wood being left over and Sauder put this to use by making end tables. A travelling salesman on his way to a Chicago furniture fair happened to notice the tables and took a few along with him. The very next day the Sauders received the phone call that many furniture craftsmen dream of - the salesman asked if could order 25000 of said tables.

Pulling out all the stops Erie Sauder managed to enlist the help of friends and family to fulfil the daunting order. The local bank extended credit and the small family company was incorporated. Despite early success the new company faced some difficulties including having to rebuild the factory twice after fires.

Growth & Specialisation

As early as the nineteen forties the company recognised the conflicts involved in being stretched too widely. Having two specialisations, made-to-stock furniture such as tables, and made-to-order furniture such as pews, caused Sauder to break up the business into separate branches, giving birth, in 1945, to the Sauder Manufacturing Company.

Sauder Manufacturing Company

Six associates of Erie Sauder scraped together the necessary capital to start the specialist church furniture manufacturer. Dividends were soon realised when in 1951 the first out of state order was received, from a church in Oregon. The order, being large, forced the company's founders to scramble to find extra trucks for the delivery, with an old milk truck having to do some service to this end.

The company grew gradually and adapted itself to changes in church seating patterns, with the advent of modular type benches instead of the traditional pews, and in 1971 it purchased an English chair company that made plybent chairs and moved its factory to Stryker, Ohio. The combined talents of Sauder and the bought out English firm produced the "Mod-Lok" type of chair in the seventies, and later, the "Oak-Lok" model, which remains popular today.

In general Sauder's achievements in worship seating can be summarised thus:

  • 1971 - Mod Lok chairs
  • 1978 - OakLok chairs, with interlocking bookrack
  • 1987 - Vantage line of chairs, derivation of Mod Lok
  • early 1990's - computerisation of design and project planning
  • 1991 - installs custom pews at Camp David presidential chapel
  • 1996 - patented line of Definity© seating for pews
  • 1999 - Unity seating line of chairs for churches
  • 2005 - introduction of Clarity line of upholstered wood chairs and pews, and chancel furniture.

In modern times Sauder Manufacturing remains a strong, highly modernised, player in the religious furniture scene.

Contract Furniture

By 1987 Sauder Manufacturing established a separate division for contract furniture sales adding the making of tables to its core competencies. In 1989 the patented PlyLok design came out with use as task seating in residential halls and at computer workstations.

1993 saw the advent of the Wedgewood healthcare chair for doctors' surgeries and hospitals, and 1997 witnessed a foray into the library furniture market. The acquisition of Wieland Furniture company in 2000 further strengthened Sauders position in contract furniture selling. A year later numbers of innovative new models came out including Mission Seating, Inner Harbor, PlyLok jr., and the 4500 and 4600 Series occasional tables. Bringing us up to date, 2004 heralded the Troika model, for university and college seating requirements, a patented three position chair with plybent construction.

Ready To Assemble Furniture

In 1951 a furniture retailer asked Erie Sauder to make an item of furniture that could be shipped and stored in flat boxes, a momentous event in the company's, as well as the furniture industry's in general, history as it saw the beginning of the RTA market, ready to assemble furniture. Today this branch of the business is managed by Studio RTA.

The ready to assemble consumer furniture of Sauder is detailed in sauder furniture collections with opportunities for reviewing the Sauder catalog and making purchases.

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