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Pride Family Brands Artistry in Specialty

Where artistry and technology come together in a tropical setting is an apt description of Pride Family Brands’ headquarters in central Costa Rica.

From left, Jamie and Steve Lowsky with Victor Wolf inside plant showroom, which overlooks the foundry.

Inside Pride’s foundry, where molten aluminum is mixed and poured into molds for prototypes and more than 100 styles of furniture each day.

Molding aluminum parts

Pouring hot metal into molds

Weaving aluminum strips

Detailing metal rods

Welding frames

Powder-coating process begins

Hand-painting finishes

The non-obtrusive façade of Pride’s facility does not adequately portend what is to be found inside the doors; there lies a seamlessly flowing manufacturing operation that prides itself in the artistry of handcrafted outdoor furniture. The company, founded on hard work and an entrepreneurial spirit, is one that values relationships and responsiveness to its customers. Artistry exists not only in its products but also in its manufacturing culture.

Artistry in action

One only need stand in Pride’s finishing room and watch one of the many artisans painstakingly hand-apply decorative finishes, or a metal-smith intricately weave aluminum strips, to understand what is at the heart of this operation. It is Pride Family Brands’ goal to create the very finest in outdoor furniture. This goal encompasses being in the forefront of design techniques and styling, many in response to their customers’ requests.

Focused now on expanding its specialty store dealer base, Pride invites retailers, top salespeople and its own sales reps to visit its plant in Costa Rica each year to observe its foundry and busy plant operation as well as discuss new designs. They return from Central America rejuvenated and with stories to tell.

“Selling is all about storytelling,” said Jamie Lowsky, CEO, Pride Family Brands. “We can definitely grow with the dealers we’ve got success stories with. We don’t have 700 dealers, we only have 280 dealers and we’ve not peaked.”

Because of Pride’s experience supplying cast aluminum furniture to prominent hotels across Costa Rica, its principals are confident their entry next month into the U.S. contract market will be relatively easy. Pride will exhibit for the first time at the Hospitality Design Expo, May 15-17, in Las Vegas. Its five-year vision to develop products for the contract market allows ample time for relationship-building with designers and hotel/restaurant specifiers.

With the specialty retailer as its focus, the Costa Rican plant is driven to create furniture at a quality level deserving of these select customers. The artistry begins with the design process. Working in cast aluminum, Pride’s design team explores all the applications of this weather-resistant yet malleable material in the formation of the desired furnishings.

From an open air studio surrounded by nature for inspiration, the process begins with models that are carved to be formed into table top designs or castings for chairs, some as soon as that same day. From the resulting castings, artists go to work producing the structure and decorative embellishments of the product. The metal-smiths weave their artwork while welders sculpt the pieces into what will soon adorn a customer’s outdoor space.

“We can do anything we believe in because these people are passionate and experienced,” Lowsky said, referring to not only the artisans but also the engineering and design team he has assembled in this Costa Rican facility. Members include his vice president of production, Victor Wolf, and industrial engineers, Sergio Flores and Mauricio Lopez. Prototypes are formed for critique by all, including sales representatives and key customers who are brought to the facility.

As the products are cast, again the customer is a valuable member of the design group and the product is in response to many of their requests. One such product was the recent Design Excellence Award winning extendable table, the largest available in the industry.

Much of the artistry that occurs in this facility, such as the rich wood grains and natural elements captured on weather resistant aluminum, became models for innovative techniques that continue to benefit the entire industry. The hand-painted finishes, woven metals, cushion designs and metal forms that first debuted on Pride’s furniture created trends seen across many manufacturers’ showrooms today.

Artistry at the Pride factory does not always involve a paint brush or a welding iron, it also is found in how the company serves the customer from color selections to packaging. The Pride facility boasts an enormous inventory of fabrics, many from U.S. manufacturers, all in the latest color and style trends for today’s outdoor rooms.

Down to the packaging of each piece, the production team at Pride’s facility demonstrates attention to detail and response to customer needs. By listening to specialty customers, the Pride team heard their request for the products be secure in transport, but also easy to unpack at the retail location. With this in mind, the company made packaging with corrugated and foam easy to dissemble for each individual piece. Quality also is evidenced in the embroidered ribbon used within the packaging.

High-tech ingredient

The Pride facility also is an example of how, without its ability to utilize many high-tech processes and manufacturing techniques, all the artistry would not be able to thrive.

A very efficient and methodical approach to the manufacturing process allows for responsiveness by the factory to sales orders. Computerization holds a major place in Pride’s Costa Rican operations as part of the design phase to the tracking of products until they reach the container dock. Wolf and his management staff take pride in every detailed report.

At the center of Pride’s streamlined production is its ability to provide custom orders for its customers. Up to 40% of all orders by the manufacturer are custom made for a retailer or their customers. The facility cannot meet this demand without the ability for all departments to seamlessly flow into the next. To this end, a cellular manufacturing system was devised by Jesse Emery, who joined Pride in 2000 and brought more than 30 years of experience in high-end casual furniture manufacturing. With this system, orders trigger the flow from casting to forming to welding through finishing and packaging. This individualized product production can be gauged by the thousands of molds or frames used in the creation of a single day’s work.

At any time, the management team can visualize where a particular product for an order is residing and determine when the complete order will ship.

When this efficiency of production is coupled with the short on-water timeframe for the product to reach Pride’s distribution center in Miami, another company goal is realized. It is able to provide this high quality product in a timely manner for customers. This efficiency relates also to Pride’s newly introduced stocking program that has received a positive response from specialty customers.

“The folks at Pride have answered a true need for stores of our size and with our shorter outdoor season for quality items in popular designs shipped in a timely manner,” said Jeanne Rowell of Homestead Gardens, Davidsonville, Md. The program involves the best-selling collections from the Castelle line with availability for shipment within seven days after receipt of an order.

The locale

The artistry, the high-tech approaches and the proximity are all realized due to its location. Chosen by Jamie Lowsky’s father, Bernie, Costa Rica provides a talented workforce that is motivated to further Pride’s dream of providing the finest outdoor furnishing possible.

As was true with the design and management teams, Lowsky credits the work ethic and the commitment of the Costa Rican people as an important element in the success of the business.

Over the past five years, Pride has realized 20% growth and feels the opportunity for further growth is there. In March, Pride added to its management team by hiring Rory Rehmert as vice president of sales and marketing for specialty store and contract divisions. Rehmert, a 27-year veteran of the casual industry, will be headquartered in the Miami office and looks to rely on the quality of the Costa Rican operation for future growth.

Past, present and future

Throughout Pride’s 30-year history, the company has been resilient to changing times.

It began in Miami as a small manufacturer of PVC furniture that found its way into the mass marketplace. From there, it has reinvented itself, found its artistic core and grown to be one of the industry’s largest manufacturers of fine cast aluminum casual furniture.

The Costa Rican facility may not appear on the surface to be a center for artistic expression, but after a visitor has toured the many hard-working departments and organized buildings, spoken to the valued personnel, observed the artistry in process and realized the passion that drives it, it will be clear.

Evidenced also is the positive outlook this operation expresses for not only its products but for the future of the casual furniture industry as a whole.

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