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From Home Furnishing Business

What Sells: Heating Up: Product Innovation, Expanded Distribution Drive Outdoor Furniture

No, we’re not talking about indoor upholstered furniture – although we could be. Those same ingredients are also the keys to selling outdoor furniture – a category that’s embarking on another selling season poised for growth amid expanding distribution channels and continuing product innovation.

After all, what’s not to like about a relaxing summer evening enjoying steaks hot off the grill and your favorite beverages with family and friends? And what better place to do it than the outdoor space at your own home?

“If you care about how your house looks on the inside, it’s natural to care about the outside,” said Lyle Ecoff, director of outdoor products at Emerald Home Furnishings.  “It’s the place where relaxation and memories occur.”

And in the view of Ecoff and other executives in the category, those things can’t be fully achieved without comfortable outdoor seating, a dining table or two, and perhaps an umbrella or fire pit.

“It’s great to be comfortable in cool outdoor furniture. It’s what drives out business,” Ecoff said. “The consumer is lucky because there is more great product out there than ever before.”

Ecoff might have added that retailers also are fortunate because there are more outdoor furniture resources than ever before. Well-established indoor furniture vendors such as Lexington, Klaussner, Century, Emerald, A.R.T., Zuo Modern, and most recently Ashley, have added outdoor furniture in recent years, and that list is likely to grow.

Not surprisingly, those well-established indoor vendors have had their greatest success selling outdoor furniture through furniture stores – a distribution channel many casual furniture specialists have had difficulty penetrating. The indoor vendors have a built-in advantage because they’ve already established relationships with key furniture stores around the country, and they often use the same sales force as their indoor line.

“If nothing else, it raises the profile of the category,” said Gary McCray, president of Klaussner Outdoor. “And the business doesn’t have to be as complicated as it was in years past. It’s becoming an easier business for retailers.”

McCray was one of several executives who said Ashley’s recent entry would raise the profile even more because of the company’s extensive retail distribution network.

“They’re going to drive furniture stores into the category – and not just theirs,” McCray said. “Stores that aren’t in the category now will have to consider it.”

A survey by Impact Consulting Services, parent company of Home Furnishings Business, showed that a plurality of consumers who recently purchased outdoor furniture (30.8%) said it was purchased at a mass merchant such as Wal-Mart or Target.  Another 23.1% said they used a home improvement store such as Lowe’s or Home Depot, and 18% said the purchase was made at an outdoor furniture specialty store.

Traditional furniture stores were mentioned the least (10.3%) of the five available options, even losing out to the internet, which is where 18% of respondents made their purchase.

To outdoor furniture veterans such as McCray and Ecoff, that relatively poor showing by furniture stores screams opportunity – primarily by selling outdoor to their existing customers

“If you’re not in the category, it’s certainly something you need to look at,” said Ecoff. “How do you not leverage your current customer base? You spent a lot of time and effort converting an indoor sale, so you now have a customer that trusts you and wants to do business with you.”

The survey indicated plenty of purchase opportunities are available, especially for consumers willing to spend $1,000 or more for an outdoor furniture purchase. It showed that a whopping 71.8% spent $999 or less, but just 20.5% spent $2,000 or more. And less than 10% were between $1,000 and $1,999.

Reflecting the concentration of purchases below $1,000, some 41% said the furniture they purchased was metal, while 35.9% said it was wicker, 12.8% said wood, and 10.3% bought plastic.

Among other survey findings, nearly two-thirds (61.5%) said they bought outdoor furniture because they were replacing or adding to existing outdoor furniture, while 18% said they had recently moved to a new house with a deck or patio, and 23.1% said they had recently added a deck or patio.

Plastic, which manufacturers prefer to call resin or polymer, appears to be one of the faster-growing outdoor furniture materials, thanks to the recent popularity of synthetic wood and wicker products that require far less maintenance than traditional wood or wicker.

McCray noted that a collection of synthetic teak products rolled out last year by Klaussner was one of the stars of the just-concluded 2017 selling season.

“It did really well this year, and based on the initial orders we’re getting for placement next year, it looks like it’s going to grow dramatically as we go forward,” McCray said.


At high-end producer Century, the star of the most recent season was a lineup of outdoor upholstery pieces that mirrored some of the company’s best-selling indoor seating. Haynes King, director of outdoor products, said the company re-engineered the indoor pieces by, among other things, switching to marine grade frames, using stainless steel staples (which don’t rust), and using plastic to reinforce the corners of the frame. That’s in addition to switching to outdoor performance fabrics designed to withstand just about any type of weather.

“People are starting to treat and decorate the outdoor space more like an indoor room,” King said. “So we created a collection of outdoor upholstery using popular styles from indoor upholstery. We’ve been pleasantly surprised just how quickly it has ramped up.”

The company was so pleased that an extensive collection by designer Thomas O’Brien being introduced in October will include the designer’s first-ever outdoor pieces.

King said the ability to blend indoor and outdoor is one of the many innovations that are driving the category – an observation echoed by McCray, who has been merchandising and selling outdoor furniture for more than three decades.

“Unlike the indoor side, there is just so much push to do new and innovative things (in outdoor),” said McCray, noting that innovations in fabric and cushion construction head the list.

However, McCray may be most excited about an innovation Klaussner quietly introduced at the most recent Las Vegas Market – power motion.

He says the lineup currently includes the industry’s first power lounge chair and power chaise, and based on the success of power motion in indoor furniture, he’s looking for big things from power outdoor motion.

“It’s a natural for outdoor. It turns a chair into a chaise,” McCray said.

He said all the chair’s electrical components are sealed and the mechanism is powder coated. The unit is powered by a lithium ion battery that can easily be removed and taken indoors for recharging, but a full charge should last 200 to 300 cycles. (A cycle is opening and closing the mechanism one time.)

“We’re pretty excited about this,” he said. “For us, it’s all about comfort and innovation. You’ve got to be able to do that.”

Coach's Corner: “Is it Time for an Upgrade?”

The goal is to make our readers aware of what is available, so they will be better able to make educated decisions about what new technology, systems and processes they may want to buy, upgrade to or adopt. However, as we all know, change can be expensive, scary and disruptive. As a result, many people and companies resist it as long as they can, putting off the pain, so to speak.

Our industry has traditionally been somewhat slow to adopt new ideas and technologies. I remember how revolutionary the fax machine was when it first came out. The first ones were clunky, messy and did not always work properly, but eventually they became must have tools in all businesses. It took many of the furniture stores I knew a few years to install their first one. It was often the manufacturers that forced them to do it so they could get orders entered and communicate about service issues.

Things are a bit different for us today. The industry has embraced many new tools and ways to do things, with the internet being the major game changer over the past decade or so. It now seems that we are not replacing as much as we are upgrading or enhancing. Every week there are upgrades on my PC, iPhone and iPad. Systems, processes, apps and devices are no longer completely “new” they just continue to evolve. How we use the internet has been a key factor in that evolution, indeed it has changed how we must do business.

Unlike much of the last century though, it is not the manufacturers and suppliers pushing retailers to change. Today it is the need to better serve the customer that drives innovation and thus change for all consumer product industries. Why has this happened and what does it mean for us as business people? Let’s take a big picture look at the marketplace dynamics that have caused this to happen and perhaps gain some insight into how we might improve our planning process for the changes we face.

I once attended a presentation by renowned marketing wiz Rodger Blackwell that included a history of our marketplace economy in the U.S. In simple terms, he stated that much like the rest of the world, we began with the well-known “supply and demand model”, where the manufacturers made what they thought the consumers wanted and that is basically all that was available. Henry Ford’s famous statement about the Model T pretty much sums up that situation: “you can have it in any color you want as long as it is black”. So initially our economy was mainly supply driven, with the maker of the products running the show for the most part. During much of the first half of the last century, most consumers purchased from traveling sales people, small local stores or factory direct and large catalog mail-order houses.

In the middle of the 20th century, as our economy began to grow by leaps and bounds, it evolved and a third entity joined the mix. Larger brick and mortar retailers like Sears, Wards, and Penny’s began opening stores across America, even in small towns. Professor Blackwell called this third element “distribution” since it got the products from the manufacturer to the end consumer. Now we had a “supply – distribution – demand” economic marketplace. As the distribution segment grew, these major retailers also began to dictate to the manufacturers what they wanted to buy for their customers. So, for most of the latter half of the century, distribution became the dominant segment of our economy, telling the producers what to make and the consumers what they could buy.

Then as we all know, we hit the 90’s and the “consumer revolution” took hold. This is where the power shifted full circle to the place it should have always been. Smart retailers and manufacturers actually began asking consumers what they wanted and doing research to make sure the products they made were right for their target audience. By the time we made it into the 21st Century, the tide had turned and the demand segment of our economy became the dominant player. As stated, this is the way it should have always been. However, a lot of things had to happen to get us there, not the least of which were the many improvements in communication technology, the advances in data processing and our ability to conduct accurate and timely research about consumer needs, wants and desires.

Now the consumer is telling both the retailer and manufacturer what they want, when they want it and how much they are willing to pay for it. Supply and distribution must listen and react to what demand is telling them or they will fail. The history of retail is littered with dead companies that did not change with the times and continued to do things the way they wanted to do them. It was not just the wrong products that killed them. It could have been any aspect of the consumer shopping and/or buying experience. Big boxes dominated for decades and now struggle against smaller, more nimble boutique stores. Regional and even local tastes vary and product or services offered must reflect what the customers in each market are looking for or sales will fall.

Not only do we deal with all this but also the fact that nothing stays the same for very long now. It seems that just when we think we have it all figured out, things change on us. Trends, fads and even brands come and go with the wind lately. Stores like The Limited and others that were at the top of the heap are gone as the consumers’ tastes shift. Big destination indoor malls have struggled while large outdoor Outlet Centers have flourished. It is even possible that there are more food and beverages sold in gas stations today than in grocery stores. This all supports that old adage, “change or die”!

Innovation usually involves changing something. Just like every new product is not right for every customer, not all new ideas, systems or processes are right for every business.  The biggest problem is deciding what needs to change and how to how to adjust in the best way possible for your company. There are no easy answers, but if the above history of our market driven economy tells us anything, it is that the consumer is king. They are the ones we aim to please, so whenever we consider improving or changing what we do, the first questions we must answer are: What does this do for our customers? How does it make their experience with us better? What impact will this new change have on the most important person in our business?

This might sound a bit simple or maybe even naive, but I have found time and again that business people, myself included, often get so wrapped up in a project that we lose sight of what it does or does not do for the process of connecting to people and helping them create beautiful and comfortable rooms/homes in which they are happy to live. The biggest distraction is often getting buried in the numbers related to how much time and money it will save or how much easier it will make it to do something within the organization. Don’t get me wrong, that is a huge reason to make changes! The only thing I am saying is that before we create a business impact statement, we need to first create a customer impact statement. Make certain that the outcome is not only good for your business but that it also enhances your ability to serve your customers the way they want to be served.

Just step back and have everyone involved take a look at what you want to do from the viewpoint of your consumer. This means that in most cases your sales and service staff needs to be involved since they are the ones that have the most direct contact with the public. I recommend that within reason, each innovation you want to pursue goes through a review process that involves staff members from all areas of the company and when possible, perhaps even some of your loyal customers. Take their feedback to heart before you finalize your decision, then have your new “innovation committee” help you develop your implementation strategy and plan. That way you will not end up with a bunch of big bad surprises when you roll out the “next big thing”.

You might read this and think I am out a little on the fringe here, but I am really not. If you were to survey the top 100 most respected consumer product companies, I would bet that at least 90% - if not all of them - have some sort of cross departmental teams or committees that participate in the development and planning process for all major company initiatives and most of them will also include customers on their teams. It is senseless to innovate unless you know what you want the end result to be and who can tell you more about that than your customers?

So, what is today’s “fax machine” or the “thing” many of us have resisted accepting? This time it is not a device, it is a service that your customers want you to offer – online sales. Many of your potential customers want to avoid the traffic and hassle of driving to your store. They see what they want on your site and just want to buy it then and there, but many of us still make them call or visit us. I believe a lot of them will just find another company that lets them do what they want, just like they always have. Maybe it is time to “upgrade” your website and the above review/implementation process might be a good way to determine how to make online sales an important part of your business plan!

TAKE FIVE: Richard Sexton

Intrigued by this possible new distribution channel, he pieced together an internet site for his store and began offering a selection of products for sale online in 1998 – a time when most consumers still had dial-up internet access. But within two years, the monthly sales volume from the store’s web site was equal to the annual sales of the brick-and-mortar operation.

“I realized this was something that was not going to go away,” Sexton understated.

So he rebranded the store as Carolina Rustica and began focusing on upper-end goods. His online and brick-and-mortar sales continued to soar, and the business survived and thrived through two recessions. He and his partner sold the business in 2012, but he remained there as president until 2015.

Today, Sexton is hailed as a pioneer of omnichannel retailing, and earlier this year was hired by home furnishings technology firm MicroD as chief product officer.

He recently spoke with Larry Thomas, senior business editor of Home Furnishings Business, about the enormous challenges faced by brick-and-mortar retailers today. He also offered his thoughts on that start-up bookseller that piqued his interest in the mid-1990s.

Home Furnishings Business: There has been lots of speculation that Amazon is about to ramp up its efforts to sell home furnishings. What do you think Amazon’s next move will be?

Richard Sexton: Do I think they’re going to buy a national furniture chain? I think it’s pretty likely. Or they could set up hundreds of Amazon furniture stores in a year if they wanted to. Having said that, their next move has to be consolidation. I think they have to absorb that (Whole Foods acquisition) first.

Their issue is not the front end, but the back end. It’s more on the infrastructure, logistics and fulfillment where they’re going to be focused. Drones can’t deliver a high-end sofa to your house.

That hard stuff -- the white glove, in-home delivery service – is the thing Amazon has not been able to get its arms around. Nor has Wayfair. That’s the core competency of your local furniture retailer.

HFB: Will logistics and other back-room processes play a larger role in the ability of brick-and-mortar retailers to compete with e-commerce?

Sexton: Yes. It’s the Achilles heel of Amazon. They’re all about volume. If you have a $5,000 custom built sofa that you’re delivering, the local brick-and-mortar retailer knows how to do that. That’s not an Amazon experience, and I can’t imagine it ever will be. When the product comes in, the local retailer will unbox it, inspect it, put it on their local truck, and do it efficiently.  And most importantly, the local retailer will do it in a way that results in a good customer experience. It’s personalized and has accountability. That is where the local brick-and-mortar retailers will always have the advantage -- and they should hold onto that advantage.

If Amazon ever came to me as a retailer and said, ‘we want you to do our fulfillment,’ I would tell them to walk away in not so polite words. Because you would be giving up the one thing that you can compete on. That’s where the local retailer has the ability to control the (customer) experience.

HFB: What other things do brick-and-mortar retailers need to do to stay competitive?

Sexton: To be successful, retailers need to continue to embrace who they are, which is either a regional or local furniture store, and dominate in that space. They can’t compete on a national scale for e-commerce anymore because the product discovery process doesn’t allow it. They’re going to be successful by having lots of reviews, having good content on their websites, and making sure that their store information is current and consistent so it drives traffic either to phone calls or to in-store visits.

Local furniture retailers are really, really good at taking in-store customers and converting them into buyers. Their conversion rates are much higher than your e-commerce player.

There is not an inherent (cost) advantage in being a pure-play e-commerce retailer because you have to spend a lot more upfront for customer acquisition on the e-commerce side because your conversion rates are a lot lower. Onsite conversion rates are going to be one-half percent to 1 percent. So there’s a lot of upfront investment in terms of getting visibility because you have to compete against Amazon and other big players like that.

HFB: What role should social media play in a retailer’s marketing strategy?

Sexton: I don’t think social media is necessarily the best fit for commerce, but it needs to be leveraged to express the uniqueness of the in-store experience. The objective should be to build a social following, and take those fans and turn them into advocates. You really want your followers to share your narrative to their own circles of friends and acquaintances. That’s how you get that multiplier effect.

For furniture retailers to think it’s going to be an actual source of sales revenue, I wouldn’t focus too much on that. The social channel feeds visitors to the in-store experience, and you can control it from there.  People want to keep the social experience separate from their buying experience, so that kind of brand awareness is the most effective thing to do on social media.

HFB: How do retailers address the challenge of keeping good, up-do-date product photography on their website?

Sexton:  I don’t think you need to have a photography studio, but you do need to have the discipline to take the pictures. Keeping up the product catalog is critical.

You should have the discipline and processes in place to take your own photography whenever possible, in context. As a retailer, I would be less concerned about having studio quality images.

If you’re a multi-store environment, your customer is going to expect more in terms of the digital experience. If it’s not good, it will reflect poorly on you as a brick and mortar retailer.  

HFB: Are voice-activated searches such as Amazon Echo and Google Home the next wave of search engines?

Sexton: It is. Depending upon who you ask, between 25% to 40% of all searches are being driven by voice-activated search. It’s huge. With the use of mobile phones, the ability to just speak into a little microphone has driven a lot of it. The second thing is that (sales of those devices) are growing exponentially, and are becoming integrated into people’s lives.

The impact that has on retailers is so significant because they have to optimize their site for natural language since that’s how people are interacting with them. If someone says, ‘Siri, I need to replace this old couch,’ how would you answer that question in a way that would get you to appear in the search results? That’s critical for retailers.

Google wants to make every search a local search, and that can create some real visibility challenges for retailers. They have to understand the dynamics in terms of where the searches are originating from, and build their content to answer that question.

The one thing you can’t do is stick your head in the sand and say, ‘I don’t get it. It’s too complicated.’ Talk to your grandkids or talk to your neighbor’s kids (laughs). They can educate you in terms of the product discovery process.

HFB: How have the things you learned at Carolina Rustica helped you in your new job at MicroD?

Sexton: I never take off my retail hat. I’m the voice of the retailer when we’re structuring our products. How will this help our retailers grow their business? Does this have meaning to their customers? We always want to make sure that whatever we do, it is with the mindset for creating a better experience and making our retailers more successful with their particular strategies.

The retailers today are my heroes. Retail is at such a critical point right now, and it’s so dynamic. The challenges are real. You cannot take anything for granted. And for us to be successful, we have to make them successful.

Forty Under 40: A Purpose Driven Mission

Having been raised in the Information Age, Millennials are the most tech-savvy generation yet. They transitioned from snail mail to e-mail to text messaging in under a decade and have an affinity for the digital world. Their inherent need for speed is in their DNA, and they expect instant gratification.

As a result, a large portion of the workforce is drawn to STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and math) and hard technical skills. And even though top employers today value technical skills, most of them say ‘soft skills’ are just as important.

Soft skills such as leadership, communication and collaboration are crucial, and the Millennials who were selected for the Home Furnishings Business Forty Under 40 list exhibit all of that, and more.

However, according to Caroline Beaton, a contributor to Forbes magazine and a workplace psychology journalist, there are four additional soft skills that are under appreciated, but essential in the modern workforce:

Attention: Attention to detail is the ability to achieve thoroughness and accuracy when accomplishing a task. But Jake Rozmaryn, CEO of Eco Branding, told Forbes that his firm sees a lot of “careless typing and formatting errors in Millennial applicant writing and work samples, cover letters, resumes, etc.” In the workforce, even the grandest project depends on the success of the smallest components. It really is “all in the details.” Time management and the ability to follow through are must-have skills as well.

More Than College: Bachelor’s degrees may now be less important than they used to be – largely because they have almost become commonplace. College education isn’t the simple recruiting filter it used to be. Most entry-level business jobs involve a customer-facing component, but few colleges offer classes preparing students for sales, customer support or client relationships. Therefore, curiosity and commitment, not college, will be among the most important skills for Millennials in 2017 and beyond.

Agility: To adapt to the rapidly changing demands of modern work, employees need agility and the ability to overcome setbacks. Agility manifests itself in individuals as resourcefulness, goals-driven behavior, a team player mentality, and relentlessness. Agility is “not getting stumped at an early stage,” said Anna Crowe, CEO of Crowe PR. Instead it’s “here’s plan B and C to get us where we need to be.”

Humility: Not taking yourself too seriously, admitting when you don’t know stuff and asking for help when you need it are some of the most advanced skills of all. In the digital age, it has never been easier to inflate your successes and white-lie your way to and through a job.

In summary, Millennials want their work to serve meaningful purpose. They’re looking for career development, more meaningful conversations, and a more connected workforce. Companies that can find ways to make their workplaces exciting enough to attract good Millennial talent can reap the rewards by harnessing their power and developing future leaders.

The Millennials on the newest Forty Under 40 list are on that track. And for those Millennials out there who may be waiting for their own nomination -- be a story worth telling.

A Story Worth Telling

Success requires passion, resilience and wisdom and the talented home furnishings professionals you will see on the following pages have had a measurable impact on their brands, their peers, their companies and the industry.

Meet the Home Furnishings Business 2017 Class of Forty Under 40, a fine selection of ambitious individuals. Some are entrepreneurs and some are leaders who have climbed the ranks of the family or corporate ladder, but all of them have what it takes to excel in their fields and are ready for any challenge that may come their way. As the new generation of home furnishings executives, their stories are worth telling.


Forty Under 40: A Purpose Driven Mission

Forty Under 40



Having been raised in the Information Age, Millennials are the most tech-savvy generation yet. They transitioned from snail mail to e-mail to text messaging in under a decade and have an affinity for the digital world. Their inherent need for speed is in their DNA, and they expect instant gratification.

As a result, a large portion of the workforce is drawn to STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and math) and hard technical skills. And even though top employers today value technical skills, most of them say ‘soft skills’ are just as important.

Soft skills such as leadership, communication and collaboration are crucial, and the Millennials who were selected for the Home Furnishings Business Forty Under 40 list exhibit all of that, and more.

However, according to Caroline Beaton, a contributor to Forbes magazine and a workplace psychology journalist, there are four additional soft skills that are under appreciated, but essential in the modern workforce:

Attention: Attention to detail is the ability to achieve thoroughness and accuracy when accomplishing a task. But Jake Rozmaryn, CEO of Eco Branding, told Forbes that his firm sees a lot of “careless typing and formatting errors in Millennial applicant writing and work samples, cover letters, resumes, etc.” In the workforce, even the grandest project depends on the success of the smallest components. It really is “all in the details.” Time management and the ability to follow through are must-have skills as well.

More Than College: Bachelor’s degrees may now be less important than they used to be – largely because they have almost become commonplace. College education isn’t the simple recruiting filter it used to be. Most entry-level business jobs involve a customer-facing component, but few colleges offer classes preparing students for sales, customer support or client relationships. Therefore, curiosity and commitment, not college, will be among the most important skills for Millennials in 2017 and beyond.

Agility: To adapt to the rapidly changing demands of modern work, employees need agility and the ability to overcome setbacks. Agility manifests itself in individuals as resourcefulness, goals-driven behavior, a team player mentality, and relentlessness. Agility is “not getting stumped at an early stage,” said Anna Crowe, CEO of Crowe PR. Instead it’s “here’s plan B and C to get us where we need to be.”

Humility: Not taking yourself too seriously, admitting when you don’t know stuff and asking for help when you need it are some of the most advanced skills of all. In the digital age, it has never been easier to inflate your successes and white-lie your way to and through a job.

In summary, Millennials want their work to serve meaningful purpose. They’re looking for career development, more meaningful conversations, and a more connected workforce. Companies that can find ways to make their workplaces exciting enough to attract good Millennial talent can reap the rewards by harnessing their power and developing future leaders.

The Millennials on the newest Forty Under 40 list are on that track. And for those Millennials out there who may be waiting for their own nomination -- be a story worth telling.

A Story Worth Telling

Success requires passion, resilience and wisdom and the talented home furnishings professionals you will see on the following pages have had a measurable impact on their brands, their peers, their companies and the industry.

Meet the Home Furnishings Business 2017 Class of Forty Under 40, a fine selection of ambitious individuals. Some are entrepreneurs and some are leaders who have climbed the ranks of the family or corporate ladder, but all of them have what it takes to excel in their fields and are ready for any challenge that may come their way. As the new generation of home furnishings executives, their stories are worth telling.


Steven Allegrezza, 32

Company: Magnussen Home

Position: Merchandising/New Business Development  

Steven AllegrezzaSteven Allegrezza has brought new levels of innovation, creativity, technology and profitability to his newly created role at Magnussen Home. He manages and maintains the e-commerce distribution channel, and the day-to-day operations that comes along with each e-commerce account. This includes managing the online catalog, updating content and maintaining reports to track sales metrics, trends, profitability, and inventory availability. He is credited with consistently finding ways to streamline, improve and enhance existing processes and procedures and has earned a reputation for boosting efficiencies and profit as he helped grow the business in this channel by 40%.

Steve is an active volunteer at his local church and helps with youth ministries. He volunteers at his local SECU house when he’s not coaching little league baseball. He is described as honest and trustworthy and a credit to his generation.


Vergil Arbuckle, 37

Company: BDI

Position: Business Development Associate

Vergil Arbuckle

With nine years of customer relations experience and six years at BDI, Virgil Arbuckle has been named BDI’s most valuable customer service rep - for six years -  before his recent promotion to business development associate.  He is experienced and accomplished. In his new role, he will play a key role in enhancing communication between the external and internal teams on a variety of new sales initiatives and will be responsible for working toward profitability goals.

Virgil knows his product and his customers and has developed strong relationships. He responds quickly to the needs of his clients and provides thoughtful insight. He is thorough and sets the bar for his peers in the industry. Virgil has a degree in architecture from North Dakota State University.


Sarah Bumps, 36

Company: Davis Furniture

Position: General Manager/Buyer    

Sarah BumpsSarah’s education in retail store management came long before she obtained the title of General Manager/Buyer. Sarah grew up watching her father Roger, and learning from him. With Roger being semi-retired, Sarah is essentially running the store as an owner. She oversees the sales manager, office manager and warehouse manager and finds time to attend both Las Vegas and High Point Markets as a buyer for the store. She is thoroughly invested in continually bettering the business, has an outstanding work ethic and attends networking conferences, buying group symposiums and performance group meetings to hone her skills. For Sarah, it’s not only about running the store, it’s about creating a company that brings comfort and excitement to her clients through thoughtful design work. She strives to better the business year after year.

Often giving of her time to better the local community, Sarah is a Wenatchee Chamber of Commerce Board Member, a YMCA Executive Board Member and has worked with local wildfire victims and insurance companies to develop furniture rental programs for displaced families. Her spirit is strong.  Sarah holds degrees in Interior Design and Business from Seattle Pacific University.


Katelynn Calonkey, 32

Company: Mister Robert Fine Furniture and Design

Position: VP of Design

Katelynn Calonkey

Katelynn Calonkey is well known and respected in the Home Furnishings Industry for her vision and influence. She has a keen sense of fashion and a savvy presence. Katelynn has increased the scope of the design-side of this 59-year-old family business and has propelled the firm into its focus on fine furniture that bridges classic design with an edgy urban identity. With a background in marketing, Katelynn has elevated the store’s marketing strategy and has built a strong social media presence with followers in the residential and commercial communities.

Katelynn’s efforts to organize and host community events have impacted business in a positive way.  She has challenged the firm to stretch beyond the norm with her keen merchandising skills and has navigated the store out of the proverbial box and helped it emerge into a thriving retail/design store. Selected as a featured designer, she has worked with some of the top designers in the Oklahoma City metro area and has been touted as an expert on trends and forecast of home and corporate fashion.

Selected for the Leadership Norman Class of 2017, Katelynn also serves in additional volunteer roles to benefit civic and non-profit organizations.


Chris Cannon, 33

Company: Cannon’s Fine Home Furnishings & Interiors

Position: President    

Chris Cannon

Chris grew up in the furniture industry and was fortunate to work with industry giants and mentors that taught him how to succeed. At 33, he is president of the store and oversees nearly every aspect of the retail business as well as the other companies established under the Cannon’s Home Furnishings umbrella. He also has the highest average ticket of anyone else in the company. With strong leadership skills, he is an inspiration to those around him and exudes a great deal of energy and enthusiasm. Chris enjoys the diversity of design challenges and is adept at providing clear solutions to bring projects to fruition successfully. He has established a defined growth strategy for the next generations to come.

Chris is involved with his local community and has served as a board member for the Chamber of Commerce. He often helps other small businesses by offering marketing advice and assistance crafting their business plans.


Brian Cattin, 38 and Gregory Cattin, 32

Company: Gallatin Valley Furniture

Position: Co-President   

Brian and Greg Cattin

Brian Cattin has a “way” with people that allows him to seek out and really connect with the stores customer base, which has helped him develop accounts bringing over $2 million in sales to the store.  As someone who is very goal driven, Brian has quietly but diligently become a driving force for the development of the company’s business goals.  He has successfully managed the sales staff, which has resulted in an increase in sales by over 40%. Brian also developed a plan for a remodel of the store and has created an interior design division within the company.

Paired with Brian as co-president, Greg is enthusiastic and extraordinarily organized. But he is also a quiet and humble individual. He is a bright, and creative talent as well as an innovative merchandiser. Since 2012 Greg has been responsible for all buying for the company and has successfully integrated the latest trends into the store’s product lineup. He worked side-by-side with Brian to revitalize and remodel the family owned business. Greg’s efforts have helped increase store sales by 40% in just three years. Not only is he a leader in the family business, he is a leader in the community and has a tremendous amount of responsibility for his age.

Brian and Greg support Haven, an organization for battered women and the Warriors and Quiet Waters Organization helping veterans adjust from post-war injuries. Greg also serves as a board member for the Museum of the Rockies.


Veselina (Vee) Curfman, 36

Company: KAS Rugs, Inc.

Position: Regional Sales Manager    

Veselina Curfman

Credited with significantly growing the South and Midwest sales territories, Vee Curfman manages a large territory for KAS Rugs. In addition to handling her own national accounts, she manages other reps accounts within the territory. She is responsible for developing the team and their overall growth and consistently meets and exceeds sales goals. Vee leads by example and serves as a mentor for her team. In her previous position at Star Furniture, Vee was a top salesperson and developed a strong retail background, which has served her well.

Originally from Bulgaria, Vee recently became a U.S. citizen and is fluent in many languages. She is an active volunteer at her daughter’s school in PTO activities, the classroom and the volleyball and soccer teams. Her strength and determination to succeed are unparalleled. When the Brazos River in Houston overflowed and the Curfman family lost their home and all of their possessions, Vee kept a positive attitude, showed a tremendous sense of calm and took minimal time off from work. A true testimony to the hard worker she is.


Robert Kenyon Davis, 33

Company: Diakon Logistics

Position: VP Client Solutions     

Robert Kenyon DavisTireless in his endeavors, Rob Davis is exactly the type of young, innovative and ambitious talent the industry needs but has difficulty attracting. His vision for Diakon embodies the desires of the demographics they serve. Rob has developed trusting relationships with retailer clients by using his ability to develop solutions for existing and anticipated opportunities.  He helps clients improve service offerings particularly with new and under-utilized technology that helps improve operational metrics, customer interaction and situational awareness. He also helped improve recruiting processes within the company to attract and retain high quality talent. Rob is credited with creating many effective operational procedures.


Shirley Disbrow, 39

Company: Cory Companies/Joseph Cory Holdings

Position: Controller    

Shirley Disbrow

Shirley Disbrow joined Cory 19 years ago as secretary to the CFO. She was responsible for providing administrative support to the various functions within the accounting department. When the opportunity arose, Shirley transitioned to specialize in handling accounts payable. Having demonstrated strong aptitude for accounting and a competence that would make her excel, she earned a promotion to accounts payable manager with supervisory responsibility for a support administrator. It is through the Women@Cory program, which provides development and advancement opportunities to women who demonstrate potential, achieve results and express a desire to grow, that Shirley was promoted to the newly created position of controller.

As a 2017 graduate of Rutgers University, Shirley holds a BS degree in accounting and will actively pursue her CPA certification.


Mike Douglas, 35

Company: Malouf

Position: Vice President of Sales

Mike DouglasAs the fourth employee hired by Malouf, there are few jobs Mike Douglas hasn’t done. From unloading freight to developing a nationwide sales team, Mike has been a critical component of Malouf’s success. Under his leadership, the company has maintained triple-digit growth for the past six years. He has a talent for managing risk and has helped the company expand its product offerings while maintaining a distinct brand image and voice. Under his direction, the company has earned multiple design awards for packaging and marketing materials. He also oversees the development and implementation of company training programs.  Mike draws from his experience to aid in product forecasting and purchasing. His efforts to streamline wholesale operations has resulted in sales growing by more than 100 percent adding 2,000 accounts and more than 4,000 stores to the channel over three years.

Through his participation in the Malouf Foundation, Mike has supported initiatives for Habitat for Humanity, Sleep in Heavenly Peace, Utah Foster Care and The Family Place. To fulfill his desire to give back to the community, Mike volunteers at fundraisers for Citizens Against Physical and Sexual Abuse and contributes monetarily to the cause to help ensure no one is turned away from the shelter. 


Jacob Egan, 32

Company: STORIS, Inc.

Title: Manager, Consulting Services     

Jacob Egan

Jacob Egan had only been at STORIS for three years when he brought his first “Top 100” client live. This is an achievement typically not met in less than five years. Two years later he was offered his first management opportunity to be Team Lead of the Consulting Services Department. He embraced the challenge with determination and hard work and quickly gained the respect of all staff reporting to him, including those with greater tenure in the company. Less than one year later, he earned a promotion to Manager of Consulting Services and has since brought another “Top 100” client live. Jacob has proven that he is a bright, motivated individual who stands by his word. Under his leadership, the division set a record revenue-generating year in FY ’15 and matched the record in FY ’16. Under his guidance, his department set a new record, completing 28 months in a row with zero open help line cases at months end.  His experiences and know-how of industry specific best practices is invaluable to the growth and success of those he mentors.

When he’s not focused on work, Jacob leads a group of men for the “movember” charity organization, which helps raise funds and educate others about health issues specific to men. Jacob’s passion mirrors the organizations mission, which is to “have an everlasting impact on the face of men’s health.”


Collier Feinberg, 29

Company: Soicher-Marin

Position: National Sales Manager

Collier FeinbergComing from a “furniture family” background, 29-year-old Collier Feinberg has experienced a lifetime of events in the furniture industry.  He manages a sales team of 52 and develops their talent while boosting sales using analytical data to achieve his objectives. He’s got sales in his blood! Collier eagerly accepts any challenge and follows through to completion. Being a self-starter, Collier is an eager, high energy, individual who brings positive value to his team. While at his previous position with Furniture Brands USA, Collier completed the FBN intern program, which introduced him to all aspects furniture manufacturing.  He developed three under-performing sales territories and when FBN filed for bankruptcy Collier was one of only 21 people retained. When Furniture Brands exited bankruptcy to become HHG, Collier successfully developed and maintained e-commerce sales for nine brands.

Collier was named Thomasville Junior Leader for 2016 and Director of Due South, Thomasville’s Philanthropic Group. He also organized their junior soccer program.


Ryan Hale, 39

Company: Kelly’s Furniture

Position: Assistant Manager    

Ryan Hale

After only five years at Kelly’s Furniture, Ryan Hale was promoted to assistant manager. In this role, he trains new sales associates and develops and motivates the existing sales team. Ryan oversees the appliance department, which includes ordering and merchandising. In addition to his regular duties, Ryan has also achieved over $1 million in sales for the past three years in a rural market of only 60,000 in a 60-mile radius. He is self-driven and sets very high goals for himself and almost always hits the mark. He serves in a support role to the president collaborating on store promotions and events.

When not at work, Ryan is busy coaching his two sons’ little league and soccer teams.


Sabrina Howley, 36

Company: Rotmans

Position: Executive Assistant to the President      

Sabrina Howley

Sabrina Howley is dedicated to Rotmans and the furniture industry. Not only does she handle hiring for the company (they have 160 employees), she also supervises all e-commerce orders (Rotmans has 2,500 hits per day on their website) and correspondence for the company, which touts $37 million in sales. Sabrina plans and executes store events, and documents and analyzes the sales performance for the company’s 47 sales persons. As a dedicated employee Sabrina does whatever it takes to improve the company, including taking interior design courses and attending job fairs on her own time.  She developed a program to attract new employees and is working with operations on a new ERP system. Currently she is working closely with the IT department to enhance the company website to yield greater web sales.

In her spare time, Sabrina helps manage her daughter’s softball team. She is also active in her local Chamber of Commerce. She is an accomplished painter and even had one of her paintings showcased in the White House. As a single parent, she held two jobs to put herself through college. She is currently married with two children.


Alex Jafee, 30

Company: Household Furniture

Position: Vice President    

Alex Jaffee

As a leader in the business and in the community, Alex Jafee has taken on a lot of responsibility at the young age of 30. As VP of Household Furniture, he is in charge of the overall management of the business including buying, merchandising and hiring. He also assists in real estate analysis and participated in the selection and subsequent opening of new stores in 2015 and 2016. In 2015 Alex spearheaded the selection, implementation and conversion of a new software system and has been diligently teaching employees how to get the most out of the new software. Additionally, in an effort to recoup a large amount of previously unrecovered warranty dollars Alex successfully implemented a vendor charge back program. He is also an active participant in several buying groups and Next Gen.

Alex leads the company’s Secret Santa community event each year and is a member of the board for BASE, a non-profit that aims to inspire and motivate underprivileged children through baseball.


Robert (Bobby) Jones, 29

Klaussner Home Furnishings

Position: Director of Motion and Import Upholstery

Bobby Jones

Being raised in a family-owned retail furniture environment, Bobby Jones has a real passion for the industry. At 29, he has the energy and enthusiasm needed to succeed. With his technological know-how, he is helping to drive sales and growth. Now on the manufacturer side, he loves the continuous evolution of the industry and the challenges it presents to him. His innovative contributions for the motion division of Klaussner include a new Complete Comfort Control app with enhanced lumbar support features and new, better and more appealing fabric applications for both motion and import upholstery.

Bobby serves on the board of the First United Methodist Church in High Point, N.C., and is very active with their youth program and its link with the community.


Jonathan Kashanian, 33

Company: FJ Kashanian Rugs

Position: Vice President   

Johnathon KashanianJonathan Kashanian manages all sales and customer relations for this family owned business, which spans four generations. In his day-to-day dealings, Jonathon believes that being honest and fair is what builds long lasting client relationships.  His management style fosters a team atmosphere, which has helped the company achieve status as a 10-time recipient of the America’s Magnificent Rugs Award. Though he started working at the company during a difficult time in the home furnishings industry, he credits his success to a combination of good luck and applying what he’s learned from his parents.







Hilary Kennedy, 32

Company: Dixon Smith Interiors

Position: Vice President of Finance and Operations    

Hilary Kennedy

In one year, Hilary Kennedy revamped a traditional, old-line firm into a modern, profitable design business. She reduced inventory and grew sales while overseeing a complete remodeling of the store. She has reimagined and reorganized the family business.

As an honors graduate from Vanderbilt University, Hilary began her career as an auditor for a Fortune 500 company before successfully transitioning to her current role as VP of Finance and Operations for Dixon Smith Interiors. She has directed the staff to implement new practices and procedures in various departments, including accounts receivable, warehousing and inventory control.  Hilary is also the leader for the artists outreach program to identify and promote local artists both in the shop and with the press. She successfully implemented a point of sale process that has greatly contributed to enhanced profitability.

Hilary is an active member of the Baton Rouge Junior League and serves on the Holly Days fundraising committee. She is also a member of the Forum 35 group, a local business organization that promotes young executive talent.


Austin Klopfenstein, 32

Company: Klopfenstein Home Rooms Furniture/Ashley HomeStore

Position: Chief Operating Officer    

Austin KlopfensteinFor the last ten years, Austin Klopfenstein has tirelessly worked 72-hour work weeks and his efforts have paid off.  Under his direction Klopfenstein’s revenue has jumped from $6 million to over $28 million dollars annually, increasing the bottom line to over three times the industry standard. Dedicated to the store’s success he oversees all the day-to-day operations which includes marketing and merchandising initiatives. He is well positioned for continued success. Described as a man of immense integrity he is also a genuinely kind person.

Austin is a 2007 graduate of the Kelly School of Business at Indiana University.

He is involved with several local charities and enjoys working with young people. He is also very involved with his church.



Hayley Leocha, 33

Company: MicroD

Position: Marketing and Communications Specialist

Hayley Leocha

Hayley Leocha has a passion for the home furnishings industry. She’s also an advocate for women and Millennials. She is creative, organized, technically savvy and a very good writer - a rare combination to find.

Leocha oversees all marketing efforts for MicroD. She plans, implements and manages integrated marketing campaigns for internal and external audiences across numerous markets creating brand awareness. She has developed training programs utilizing webinars, which have been a huge success for prospects as well as employees. Every year she develops a strategy and design theme for MicroD, focusing on customer retention and satisfaction. Leocha is a true team player.

Leocha is involved with Therapy Dog International and even has her own certified therapy dog. She often volunteers at her local hospital, library and schools. She is a member of the YMCA program planning committee and a core team member, handling public relations for the Refugee Resettlement Program at her church.


Shannon Lodermeier, 31

Company: FurnitureDealer.Net

Position: Senior Client Strategist    

Shannon Lordermeier

As the senior account manager for 40 of FurnitureDealer.Net’s retail clients Shannon Lodermeier is responsible for creating and managing a website plan that is tailored to their business goals and needs. In effect, Sarah becomes their trusted adviser in all things digital and website-related and maintains long-lasting partnerships with her clients. She is the main liaison between the clients and her internal team, delegating tasks and coordinating with the internal staff to ensure projects are completed in a timely manner. She is an asset to the senior client-facing team.

Shannon sets the bar high and has a powerful problem-solving mindset.  She was a lead presenter at the company’s user conference in the Fall of 2016, which resulted in in elevating many of their clients’ websites to the next level. This year, she created a new CRM system that brought organization and transparency to the entire FurnitureDealer.Net team.

Shannon cares about the health and wellness of her colleagues and has led yoga classes for employees on her own time. She even leads a “healthy lunch group” dedicated to planning and serving healthy means at work.  Shannon also cares about the environment and participates in an Earth Day clean-up program in her community. She cares about diversity in the workplace and women’s rights and isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in.


Steven, 31 and Cyrus, 29 Loloi

Company: Loloi Rugs

Position: Principals    

Steven and Cyrus Loloi

Thirteen years ago, Loloi Rugs was a company with four employees, a small office in Dallas, and an idea to design and handcraft the world’s most original rugs. Today, Loloi is a major player and has hundreds of employees, multiple warehouses and thousands of products, due in part to the hard work and dedication of Steven and Cyrus Loloi. The two brothers are taking the family business by storm and have been instrumental in inking deals to be the exclusive rug manufacturer for Magnolia Home and Ellen DeGeneres.

Over the years, the brothers have gained knowledge in all areas of the business working at non-management, labor-intensive job assignments. Steven, who has been with the company for eight years, is now Senior Vice-President. He has outstanding leadership qualities and has a keen interest in sales development and designing product.  The younger Cyrus, who is now the VP of Marketing, has been with the company for six years and currently supervises the company’s outbound marketing and education programs to help grow the business. 

The Loloi brothers are very involved with the family business and all the charity work they do. They are committed to improving their communities any way they can, including supporting Habitat for Humanity and its vision of bringing affordable homes to the community.


Jay Lorenzo, 27

Company: Aico /Amini Innovation Corp.

Position: Manufacturer Representative      

Jay LorenzoJay Lorenzo received four nominations for this honor by four separate individuals - a true testimony to his passion, energy and work ethic. As a rep for Aico, he stepped into the Central Florida territory and has done an exceptional job in every way.  As a result, he was nominated for Rookie Salesman of the Year.  Jay is very hands on and possesses follow-up capabilities that are second to none. Not only is he a hard worker but he also has a terrific personality and is very pleasant to work with. He is described as a true team player, who knows how to create strong relationships. He has a spirit and drive that is noticeable from the moment you meet him.

Jay is a City of Hope donor and advocate, and regularly attends and participates in charity events hosted by dealers.


Neil MacKenzie, 38

Company: Universal Furniture

Position: Director of Marketing      

Neil MacKenzie

Neil MacKenzie has a drive for excellence. That coupled with his knowledge of digital media is what landed him this nomination. As director of marketing he sets the strategic and creative direction for Universal’s brands, overseeing all elements of support, including web, social, advertising, promotions, PR and events. He has educated the sales force (and company executives) on how to create a positive brand impression through multiple channels of influence. He creates and leverages consumer-friendly content across digital platforms to build awareness, drive traffic and create engagement opportunities for customers. In the last year, he has launched new websites for each brand, resulting in significant growth across all brands of more than 100%.  Neil has enhanced the company’s market experience. His initiatives have led to double-digit gains in traffic, market over market.

Neil works with and donates to First Tee of the Triad, which provides educational programs that build character and values for youth through the game of golf.


Sam Malouf, 37

Company: Malouf 

Position: President and CEO    

Sam Malouf

Sam Malouf started Malouf with his wife Kacie as a college student. The company was actually born from a bad shopping experience. A young couple buying sheets thought that quality, price and packaging could be better. So, they started selling sheets out of their two-bedroom apartment and learned as they went. Six years ago, they hired their first full-time employee. Business began to blossom with noticeable growth and new product lines.  As president and CEO, Sam now leads a team of 200 employees. He makes strategic decisions, oversees cash flow and financing, and directs real estate management and planning. He is actively involved in product development and lends his thoughts on product packaging. Sam keeps the bar high.

He recently received the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Award in the Utah Region.

Sam runs the Malouf Foundation, which provides comfort items to those experiencing hard times.


Anna McGaha, 35

Company: Fine Furniture Design

Position: Marketing Director        

Anna McGahaAs marketing director, Anna is responsible for the planning, development and implementation of Fine Furniture Design marketing, special events, and public relations activities. She has developed a multi-faceted strategy to propel FFD’s brand to the next level with thoughtful and well-orchestrated communications. Under her leadership, FFD completed a rebranding and launched several licensed product lines each supported by ad campaigns. At the recent Spring High Point Market Anna’s trade communication strategy resulted in over 30 articles and features for FFD across the leading trade publications. These achievements have resulted in the company experiencing tremendous growth.

Anna is passionate about her Greek Culture and is teaching the language to her two young daughters. She volunteers her time to a variety of charitable activities and to her local church.


Dale Mullen, 38

Badcock Home Furniture & More

Position: Home Delivery Manager   

Dale MullenDale was hired in 2012 to assist in starting a completely new process for Badcock’s home delivery program. He has been a huge asset. He determined the logistics, set delivery maps and created most of the SOP’s for Badcock’s home delivery operation. Dale started with centralizing deliveries from the warehouse for one store in Lakeland, Fla., and now has 23 - from Ft. Meyers to St Petersburg to Orlando. Next up is Mebane, N.C. Ultimately Dale is responsible for all routing, loading deliveries, customer service and returns for all 23 locations, overseeing a team of 70 employees. He is motivated and passionate about his career and the company. Dale’s credo is “evolve or become extinct” and he imparts this motto to his entire team.

When not working, Dale attends college classes, coaches his son’s baseball team and sits on the Board of Directors for the South Lakeland Little League. He also finds time to help with his two daughters’ activities.


Andrew Novick, 40

Company: HUB Furniture Co

Position: VP Operations    

Andrew Novick

HUB Furniture Co., has been family owned and operated since 1913. Andrew Novick represents the fourth generation to run the company and has succeeded in changing the dynamic of the organization and its advertising program to better meet the needs of the customers they are trying to reach. He has enhanced the vendor line-up to more closely match the needs of today’s younger shoppers, and changed the branding of the company by creating a new logo. Using his marketing prowess Andrew is responsible for putting HUB on the social media map and has successfully reconstructed the company website. He has also overseen the remodeling of some of the retail space within the stores.

Andrew supports the traditions of the Novick family, who have quietly built a reputation for being donors of money, time, energy and furniture to local nonprofits like Preble Street Resource Center, the United Way and the Jewish Community Alliance of Southern Maine.


Jake Pickel, 39

Company: Johnny Janosik

Position:  Regional Manager Specialty Stores

Jake Pickel

Earning two promotions within the first year of employment is quite an achievement. But that’s exactly what Jake Pickel did when he was hired at Johnny Janosik. He now manages four physical locations, positioned within two separate markets and also performs duties as the outdoor program buyer. Under his direction the store has experienced a 57% year-over-year sales increase in the category. In short, Jake handles a tremendous amount of responsibility with an excellent attitude and aptitude for learning. He is well liked and possesses strong management capability.

Jake is actively involved in the company mission to support Habitat for Humanity and participates in the company’s annual Charity Gold Tournament as well. He is also an active volunteer of Trout Unlimited, an organization dedicated to the upland habitats for trout and other aquatic species.


Scott Price, 39

Company: Toms-Price Furniture

Position: President      

Scott PriceAs president of Toms-Price, Scott Price is involved in all aspects of the business and is directly responsible for merchandising, the promotional calendar, revenue growth, store facilities and store management supervision. He is also the broadcast spokesperson for the company. Scott’s prodigious work ethic and family furniture business background allow him to identify and solve problems quickly. He has opened several stores including an extremely successful outlet store in 2005. Under his leadership, the store has achieved revenue growth every year, except one. Recently, Scott developed an independent design and project design business for high net worth individuals, which has been remarkably successful and continues to gain momentum with projects in the U.S. and the Caribbean.

Despite his work-related time commitments, Scott has been a board member of Rise International for ten years and served as president for four years.  He also serves on the leadership council at Willow Creek Church. Recently, Scott and his wife Meghan became foster parents providing a loving home environment for three children.


Jay Root, 30

Company: Furniture Sales of Mid America

Position: Director of Ecommerce and Training  

Jay Root

Jay Root is a true sales professional. He solves problems, builds relationships, and has gained the trust of some of the largest internet players in the industry. He’s a hardworking, likeable guy who conducts himself in an ethical way. Jay has been instrumental in developing and executing a sales training program for his family’s wholesale rep business. But perhaps his greatest achievement to date has been to expand the sales channel for Internet-only retailers as well as brick and mortar Top 100 retailers.  Jay is always exploring new opportunities to grow the firm including helping retailers to improve online sales via service platforms like freight consolidation and augmented reality.

Jay is a newly named ambassador for IHFRA. He is also a board member for Field Club of Omaha and has been an active participant in the Big Brothers program.


Harrison Rose, 32

Company: Marty Rose and Associates

Position: Manufacturer’s Representative  

Harrison Rose

As a manufacturer’s rep, Harrison Rose works with a variety of accounts in the highly competitive Chicago area representing some of the best manufacturers in the industry. He is known by his clients and competitors as a hardworking, knowledgeable, respected professional. Harrison handles sales training, new business development, maintaining Top 100 accounts and merchandising and marketing the products he represents in the marketplace. Having represented the industry well at the ripe young age of 32, he makes a positive impact in the marketplace. He volunteers his time to help others and assists folks that are new to the industry.

Harrison is an executive board member of IHFRA, is involved with Democracy Now news organization and is a volunteer with the Renaissance Collaborative which helps house and employ low-income households on Chicago’s South Side.


Ozge Sayan, 37

Company: Bedgear

Position: Creative Director

Ozge SayanOzge Syan helped evolve the Bedgear brand from the standard branding of bedding to a more contemporary style of branding that the company needed to excel in its category. She did this using sleek designs and a narrative that says “performance” and “recovery” as opposed to the usual story of bedding products. Ozge constantly strives to make sure Bedgear always looks like the industry innovator it is. She runs a time-crunched department and manages a team of artists and designers that consistently produce above par. Under her direction, Bedgear’s artwork has been featured in the Boston Globe and Sports Illustrated.

Being a first-generation immigrant Ozge is proud to volunteer for “Bridge to Turkey” and helps support projects in the fields of education and public health care for children in her native land of Turkey. She also volunteers with “Ticket to Dream” a program that helps provide assistance to foster youth. She has a 6-year-old son, and likes plate painting and belly dancing.


Christopher Saylor, 28

Company: Furniture Superstores

Position:  Co-owner  

Christopher Saylor

In one simple word, Christopher Saylor is what many of us aspire to be - a hustler. His determination and drive have led him to achieve entrepreneurial goals that would take most individuals years to accomplish. At 28, Chris is the Co-Owner of Furniture Superstores as well as the North Valley Antique and Collectibles Mall. Nominated by three different individuals for this honor, Chris is not only admired, but he is praised tremendously for his achievements.

Approximately one year ago, Chris and his brother Jon purchased a $5 Million, 50,000 sq. ft. facility and built a new Design Center showroom with a new multi-dock warehouse and multi-level racking system.

Aside from his multitude of accomplishments, Chris has managed to maintain a steadfast sense of family, both inside and outside of his vocational duties. He is known for having a caring personality with a big heart, and has been active in supporting charities that fund a plethora of causes, such as the Boys and Girls Ranch.


Cameron Cook Sellers, 33

Company: Palliser Furniture

Position: Director of Marketing    

Cameron Cook Sellers

As Director of Marketing, Cameron is responsible for the development and supervision of all marketing and communications strategies for Palliser with an emphasis on digital marketing. She has been in the industry for more than 10 years. At her previous post at Natuzzi, Cameron successfully re-launched a new progressive marketing/communications approach with a mix of marketing programs tailored for industry dealers and consumers. Having worked in China for Uttermost, her unmatched international experience in home décor brings a fresh perspective to branding, promotion, marketing and social media. Cameron’s proven track record has earned her the respect of many of the Top 100 retailers she works with at Palliser.

Cameron is the chairperson of a new division for the City of Hope and an active member of the WithIt organization serving on several committees. She also supports fundraising efforts for the Humane Society, American Cancer Society and the Levine Cancer Institute.


Jay Steinback, 38

Company: Rothman Furniture & Mattress

Position: CEO and President    

Jay Steinback

As president and CEO, Jay Steinback accepts sole responsibility for the overall direction and success of Rothman Furniture & Mattress.  With his knowledge of the industry and business expertise, he oversees the management team, providing guidance, strategy and future plans for growth. He is also the face of the company within the St. Louis community. The implementation of Rothman’s e-commerce website is considered one of his major accomplishments. And in an effort to provide additional internet-based exposure, Jay developed Rothman’s social media presence providing an additional tool to engage with and attract new customers. Carrying on the family legacy, Jay has managed to build upon Rothman’s historical achievements and drive the company forward. 

Through his leadership and passion for service, Jay is committed to enriching the community and supports several local charities, including Ronald McDonald House, Operation Food Search and H.E.R.O.E.S Care which helps furnish the homes of active and retired military members.


Maureen Smithe, 37, Meghan Smithe, 36, Caitie Smithe, 35 and Colleen Smithe, 34

Company: Walter E. Smithe Furniture & Design

Positions: Buyer, Director of Marketing, Designer and Director of Advertising

Smithe Sisters

The fourth- generation Smithe sisters have been involved in the family business since they were little. They would accompany their father to work on the days following warehouse sales so they could remove tags from merchandise, earning a nickel from their grandfather for every tag removed. As they grew, they worked weekends and summers and went through designer training in order to work directly with clients. After college, each sister pursued a career outside of the family business eventually returning and earning their “stripes” in their own right.

Maureen was the first to return in 2004 joining the merchandising team as a buyer with a focus on driving merchandising blocks that demonstrate the company’s ability to deliver furniture and designs that appeal to each of their clients.

Meghan returned in 2014 as director of marketing and Colleen has been director of advertising since early 2016. The two work hand-in-hand on driving the strategic vision for the company and the day-to-day task of managing messaging and promotional plans. Meghan and Colleen have taken the lead on developing a new brand strategy and ad campaign. As with any 72-year-old brand, updates are needed to keep it fresh and relevant. Fittingly, the sisters created the Smithe Family Makeovers, in which the sisters conceptualize and execute makeovers for real client homes. The campaign has generated immense attention and is successfully redefining the perceptions Chicagoans have about Walter E. Smith.

Caitie stepped back into the role of designer in early 2016. She balances her time between the showroom and the home office where she partners with the merchandising team to scout trends and influence how those trends are represented across Smith’s product offering.

The Smithe family has military roots and the sisters are proud to support the local Honor Flight Organization. They also support the Barrington Youth & Family Services organization where Meghan is an auxiliary board member. Maureen actively supports her local parish Refugee Committee. Among the four of them, they have 17 children – the next (5th) generation.


Trey VanHoose, 35

Company: Big Sandy Superstores

Position: President    

Trey VanHooseAs a third-generation furniture guy, Trey VanHoose learned the business by working his way up the ladder the old-fashioned way. He progressed from the warehouse, to sales, to store management to president of this privately owned, family-run, Top 100 retailer. His passion, work ethic and ability to relate to people go against the typical “Millenial profile.”   He is a caring individual who serves as the “glue” for the company and continues fostering a “family feel” for nearly 700 employees. Trey has overseen tremendous growth in the Columbus, Ohio market and is well versed in all areas of the business. He is credited with developing a loyal, hard-working team that operates like a cohesive unit. He is the total package…the real deal.

Trey carries on the “golden rule” family tradition by supporting local charities and youth sports throughout the communities Big Sandy Superstore serves.


Ashley Yaraghi, 26

Company: Safavieh

Position: National Account Executive    

Ashley Yaraghi

At 26 Ashley Yaraghi is a force to be reckoned with. In a short time Ashley has built a strong foundation by opening new accounts and growing others that were struggling before being turned over to her. She has met and exceeded all challenges presented to her and is hands-on in all phases of the business.  Through her tenacity Ashley has grown a small team into a powerhouse taking charge with direction for customer fulfillment and satisfaction. She manages each account, shoots and styles their unique shots and handles all shipping issues. She also leads the Social Media team, growing the company’s Instagram following to nearly 350,000 people. She is also the video spokesperson on YouTube.

Passionate about helping others, Ashley earned an award from the Salvation Army for “doing the most good”.  She is a graduate of Boston University and Imperial College of London and a former Wayfair Creative Design team member.


Sam Zavary, 40

Company: Exclusive Furniture

Position: CEO    

Sam Zavary

Sam Zavary’s father started a small furniture business years ago, and despite a downturned economy, Sam turned it into a multi-million-dollar operation and one of the top furniture retail stores in Texas.  He also grew the staff to approximately 200 employees. As the highest-ranking executive in the company, Sam’s primary responsibilities include making corporate decisions, and managing every aspect of operations, from warehousing to retail stores, to purchasing and philanthropy. He is well respected and a long-time leader in the Houston furniture scene.

Sam believes in giving back to the communities that his six locations support.  Already an annual participant in local blood drives and serving as a collection point for Toys for Tots, Zavary also donates fully furnished rooms to deserving families as part of a 12 Days of Christmas promotion.



In Good Company


As a magazine whose mission is to help you grow your business, we believe growing your employees is also an integral part of that mission. Accordingly, in this section we present a look back at some of our past picks, once again brought before you as repeat honorees. Looking at their achievements since their last appearance on these pages, it’s easy to see that there are plenty of big wins from these fine young men and women. They continue to be a story worth telling.


Sarah Dretsch, 40

Company: Weekends Only

Position: Senior Buyer

Sarah DretschDedicated to personal and professional growth, Sarah Dretsch was promoted to Senior Buyer a few years ago and loves what she does. She is passionate about the Weekends Only brand and works hard to help move it forward. She buys fabric and leather upholstery and loves sourcing new merchandise for this top 100 company. She also manages an assistant buyer who is responsible for ancillary categories. Fully understanding customer needs, Sarah provides a commercially viable range of merchandise at competitive prices. Sarah also led a company-wide “Training Palooza” that involved industry reps and the store’s entire sales team earning accolades as a “rising young star” by Ashley Furniture. She has a considerable amount of responsibility and excellent leadership qualities.

Sarah has been a Big Sister in the Big Sister, Big Brother program for the last ten years.


Mandy Jeffries, 34

Company: Colfax Furniture

Position:  President

Mandy JeffriesSince the last time she was recognized for this honor, Mandy Jeffries has been promoted to President of Colfax Furniture.  She is now responsible for overseeing all operations and planning for the future of the company.  Since her promotion, she has managed the company successfully and has elevated staff morale, participation and overall attitude.  As a leader, she has the confidence, passion and determination needed to lead the company into the future. She is excited to see what the future holds.

Mandy continues to serve on the board of Next Gen Now and participates in various furniture industry organizations. She is active in the local chapter of the American Heart Association and has been awarded one of the Triad’s outstanding women in business award.


Lael Thompson, 38

Company: Broyhill Home Collections

Position: Chief Operating Officer

Lael ThompsonThere are some people whose personal and professional growth can’t be put into a box. Lael Thompson is one of those people. During his 18 years in the industry, he has rebuilt the family business and achieved results that out-perform industry benchmarks. He successfully transformed a small, unpainted furniture gallery into one of the largest Broyhill Stores in America. Lael’s heart beats for the success of the people in the home furnishings industry. He has a history of building strong relationships and likes to connect people who can benefit from sharing information thereby helping them grow their business. He strives to make the industry stronger, smarter, and more profitable.

Lael currently serves on the board for HFA and helped re-build Next Gen Now by rooting the “under 40’s” in the industry on a path for success while having fun. He is excited to help expose the members of this group to the best thinkers and most successful companies in the industry.


Kyle “Bo” Coconis, 32

Company: Coconis Furniture/Mattress 1st

Position: Merchandise Manager and Associate Store Manager

Kyle CoconisSince his last nomination for the Forty Under 40 honor, Bo Coconis has grown into an outstanding leader in all areas of the company helping to fuel growth and success. His passion for the business is a driving force toward a bright future for Coconis Furniture.  He has become adept at handling challenging situations particularly in the service area. Aspiring to learn and share ideas with fellow retailers, Bo is a member of Impact Consulting Services’ performance group and serves on the HFA Next Gen board. He also assists with the Furniture First Next Gen group. Bo is a well-respected member of the home furnishings community.

Along with his brother Chad, Bo started a “Tee It Up Fore Autism” golf outing which is still going strong and now in its eighth year. 

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