In May of 1946, my parents Carroll and Mary Henkel, together with close family friend John Harris, decided to begin producing furniture in the basement of the family home. Thus, from modest beginnings, the Henkel Harris legacy was born
The first finished Henkel Harris piece was a hand-crafted reproduction corner cabinet. The three young entrepreneurs were very excited about their accomplishment. Unfortunately, they faced one small problem – how to get the large corner cabinet out of the house! In their exuberance, they had failed to measure correctly, and the finished piece would not fit through the basement door. Carroll’s solution was to saw it in half and glue it back together. They then placed the corner cabinet in the back of an old pickup truck and drove to Washington, D.C. where it was quickly sold. While they were happy with their initial success, the three friends knew the basement was obviously not a place to produce furniture. Shortly after their return from Washington, D.C. the trio moved their tiny operation to a warehouse next door to the Henkel home.
Henkel Harris grew steadily from 1946 to 1954. The young company’s reputation for making quality furniture, however, spread rapidly. By 1954, the company employed 22 craftsmen and produced furniture from cherry, mahogany and walnut woods. That same year, John Harris sold his interest in the company to my parents and moved to Washington, D.C.
By 1964, the company had once again outgrown its existing facilities. This time, my father decided to design a new plant himself – one that was to become a model manufacturing facility.
After fighting cancer for over two years, my father passed away in January of 1969. At the time, it seemed as though everyone was advising my mother to sell the company. They said manufacturing was a man’s world, and that she would never make it. Despite receiving numerous offers to buy her out, my mother was resolute in her determination to keep alive the dream she and dad had shared. Through the sheer strength of her will, she proved the doubters wrong – showing a woman could make it in a man’s world! Under my mother’s direction, Henkel Harris continued to grow and expand. In 1996, her years of dedication were rewarded with her induction into the “Furniture Hall of Fame”.
In 1982, I became President and CEO of Henkel Harris, with my mother continuing to serve as Chairman of the Board. Following the example set forth by both my father and mother, I have been honored to guide Henkel Harris and to help establish it as a leader in the design and manufacture of the highest quality furniture.
November of 2001 marked another tragic event for all of us at Henkel Harris with the passing of my mother, Mary McKenzie Henkel. But in her passing, she left an enduring legacy, one that I and my sons, Mac, Mark and John Carroll, will continue to follow as we lead the company into the future. As a family unit, we all serve on the Board of Directors. Mac and Mark work at the factory every day, as will John Carroll upon finishing his education.
The legacy built by my father and mother and passed down to the generations who have followed, is why a company, which grew from a tiny basement in the Henkel home in 1946, continues today to be “Just Possibly America’s Finest Furniture.”