Lifetime Achievement honorees announced
Staff Staff -- Casual Living, July 15, 2005
The Casual Furniture Retailers and the Summer & Casual Furniture Manufacturers associations named Kurt Lorig and the late Robert Brown as 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award winners.
CFR and SCFMA developed the award to recognize individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the casual furniture industry and to their communities.
Kurt Lorig opened Anaheim Patio & Fireside in Anaheim, Calif., in 1956. Today, the family-owned business is Orange County's largest retailer of outdoor furniture, hearth and fireplace products, barbecues and accessories for the casual lifestyle. The company operates three stores, located in Huntington Beach, Brea and Irvine, with corporate headquarters in Brea. The original Anaheim store was closed in 1996 due to an Interstate highway expansion.
Lorig survived a Nazi concentration camp as a teen-ager and arrived in the United States from war-torn Germany in 1947. With a dollar in his pocket and limited command of English, Lorig settled with family members in Chicago, where he met Phyllis, his wife of 56 years.
After the Lorigs moved to Los Angeles, he found work in a furniture store that sold some outdoor furniture. He liked the business and soon set his sights on owning his own patio store. He opened Anaheim Patio & Fireside and built the business selling redwood picnic tables, aluminum chairs and umbrellas. He later added upper-end grills and patio furniture lines.
In 1981, Lorig helped found CFR with Brian O'Brien, Buzz Homsey and the late Ken Rash. His store was nominated for the Apollo Award three times and won the coveted honor in 1981. He now has 30 full-time employees in the three locations, many who have worked for the company more than 15 years.
Lorig, who has two daughters and six grandchildren, continues to work seven days a week. He served on the board of directors for Heritage Point, a retirement home for Jewish seniors; was a charter member of Temple Beth Emet in Anaheim and served as chairman of the Anaheim annual Halloween Parade.
Robert Brown founded Brown-Williams in the late 1930s making high-quality wrought iron furniture, mostly on special order from interior designers. The nature of the business changed a few years later, when he was asked by Bullock's department store to produce a low-cost breakfast table and four chairs.
Sales representative Hubert Jordan strapped a prototype set to his car and drove it to Bullock's. The buyer was impressed and placed an order for 12 sets. Before the month's promotion was over, however, Bullock's had sold 150 sets, and Brown had discovered the profits in volume versus custom manufacturing.
World War II brought manufacturers such as Brown-Williams to a screeching halt. But as manufacturing picked up again after the war, Bullock's once again approached Jordan for a five-piece breakfast set.
Soon Jordan joined forces with Brown, acquiring manufacturing space in Glendale, Calif. By 1945 the company's volume had grown to $9,000 a month and the two moved to a 5,000-sq.-ft. plant in Pasadena.
Brown continued designing and, just before the Korean War, introduced rectangular aluminum tubing, which offered greater design versatility. In the late '40s, he pioneered the laced webbing concept. By 1957, manufacturing facilities had been added in Arkansas to handle East Coast volume.
Three years later, the company expanded its West Coast operations again, building the 84,000-sq.-ft. El Monte, Calif., plant. Jordan retired in 1960, and in 1969 Brown sold the company to Scott Paper. Brown died in 2001 at the age of 89.
"Robert Brown left a lasting impression on the industry with his ethics in business and his constant pursuit of perfection in design and quality," said Stephen Elton, a Brown Jordan employee for 15 years. "This industry is better because of him."
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