Separating the Wheat from the Chaff
One thing I've always been good at is school. So it's no surprise that when I had the opportunity to attend Hickory Chair Company University, I jumped. Hickory Chair Company University, or HCC University, is a two-day intensive program, mostly for HCC dealers, on the ins and outs of the HCC brand.
I'd rather call it Furniture 101.
For two days, at the HCC factory in Hickory, North Carolina, the HCC University "faculty"--or its CEO, Jay Reardon, and its Director of Marketing Services, Laura Holland--lectured me and about 45 other "students" on basic furniture construction and the techniques that distinguish HCC from other brands.
I'll spare you the lessons on lumber cuts, wood species and leather tanning (all part of the HCC University curriculum!) and focus instead on the construction and custom options that distinguish this quality brand. The lesson here is, you get what you pay for, and what you get from Hickory Chair is furniture worth paying extra for.
To understand what distinguishes HCC furniture, you should know a little about the culture of HCC. Four years ago, the company introduced its EDGE program, an acronym for Employees Dedicated to Growth and Excellence. HCC management understood that the traditional models for furniture production weren't working: there were inefficiencies leading to errors and safety issues on the line, long lead times and excess inventory. So they involved the employees in making improvements. Every employee is both a customer and a supplier: a customer to other employees in the production process up the line and a supplier to other employees down the line. By focusing on process, HCC employees are invested in delivering results to their "customers," whether they be fellow employees on the line, or the ultimate consumer.
When EDGE started, HCC made approximately 1,100 to 1,300 improvements in the first year alone. Safety is practically a non-issue at HCC: it has one of the best, if not the best records for employee safety in the industry. Because of EDGE, HCC has streamlined its manufacturing process, reducing inefficiencies and inventory. Consequently, it has had only three small (5 percent) price increases in the last 5+ years.
EDGE mottos around the HCC factory
Besides employee satisfaction, HCC is invested in customer satisfaction. And that includes its specifiers and dealers. HCC strives to give designers and dealers the tools to provide better design solutions. Customization is practically the norm at HCC. From the finishes on the frames, to the trimmings on upholstery, to the overall sizing and structure of a piece, it can be done. And if you submit a custom order request, you will get a response in two days and your order will ship in six weeks. No kidding!
An HCC chest customized by fine art painters on their staff
HCC's Gabrielle Side Chair customized with painted finish
HCC Chest customized with Customer's Own Hardware Program
A Special Customized Christmas Gift: HCC chair monogrammed with college insignia and personalized message
With all of these improvements, there has been no sacrifice in HCC's quality. All drawers are constructed of solid oak or ash and with English dovetail joints. On the underside, corners are secured with glue blocks to prevent joints from loosening. Drawers are hung from the sides for greater stability, not attached via a bottom rail. All lumber is kiln-dried, and factory temperatures and humidity are regulated to maintain the integrity of the wood. HCC uses five-ply construction in veneered goods, in contrast to most manufacturers which use two or three-ply. With five-ply, intermediate layers are applied in a cross-grain fashion to insure greater stability and prevent warping.
In upholstery, the HCC standard seat cushion is spring/down--springs wrapped and covered with a layer of down. (Spring-down is typically an up-charge for most manufacturers.) All throw pillows are made with gray goose down which has shorter quills, rather than duck feathers or white goose down which are more likely to poke through fabrics. Springs are hand-tied eight ways. Tufting is always secured to the furniture frame for extra stability.
I could go on and on. But the message is clear. HCC furniture is built to last. In this day and age, we designers are saying, "Do it once; do it right." You can't go wrong with Hickory Chair.
My HCC University diploma