Bernhardt Furniture - The Back Story
Bernhardt Furniture is all about family - their family and yours. For over 125 years, this fine furniture company of North Carolina has grown and evolved to accommodate your family's needs, all while staying under the same family’s ownership and management. Since 1889, Bernhardt Furniture has remained a family owned business that is dedicated to the welfare of the community of Lenoir, NC, their home since day one.
J.M. Bernhardt, the founder of Bernhardt Furniture, was a man with imagination and drive. His legacy includes not only a thriving family
enterprise, but also a heritage of perseverance and social responsibility. J.M. saw opportunity all around him, from the beautiful timber stands of the North Carolina mountains, to the wood craftsmen that abounded in the area, and most importantly in the new and burgeoning railroad industry. He recognized a new shipping opportunity and was solely responsible for convincing the railroad to build a spur to Lenoir.
In 1889 J.M. Bernhardt started manufacturing furniture from the beautiful white oak native to the North Carolina mountains. The company earned a reputation for making high-quality furniture with intricate oak-grain finishes that was both durable and beautiful. The quality of the furniture spoke for itself and Bernhardt was able to connect with distributors and merchants in large cities such as Chicago and New York City.
In part, the dedication and affection the Bernhardt family has for their employees is due to the relationships forged during the turmoil of the beginning of the century. George Bernhardt returned from World War I to take over the company and was almost immediately tested with a catastrophic fire that burned the plant to the ground. With the support and help of his employees, he was able to build the factory back. More trials quickly followed when the Great Depression came along, closing the banks. The company overcame this obstacle by using script, or promises to pay employees after banks re-opened, and these promises were honored. These were just a few instances that reinforced the Bernhardt family commitment to its employees.
World War II came along and Bernhardt Furniture was tested again. The men went off to war leaving Bernhardt Furniture with government contracts to fill and no employees. The women of Lenoir stepped up; they learned how to operate the machinery and kept the business both open and prospering during the war.
After the war, military benefits helped veterans purchase homes and the furniture to fill those homes. It was a time of great growth for
Bernhardt Furniture. They were able to add new lines of furniture including upholstered furniture which was far and away the favorite of the modern post war family.
Always under the watchful eye of generations of Bernhardt family members, expansion continued from post WWII into the 1980’s. In the mid-80's, the company dropped the various marketing names that had emerged over the years for products and lines - opting instead to undertake a national brand-building effort concentrating solely on the Bernhardt name. In 1981, the company formed a new division called Bernhardt Design, offering furniture for offices and conference rooms and subsequently has become a leading supplier and style setter in today’s workplace.
Sticking close to the values of their founder, John Bernhardt, the company welcomed the new millennium by opening yet another domestic factory for its growing fabric and leather business. In 2001, at the beginning of an era that the public was being taught decor design via tv screens, Bernhardt was brought into the national spotlight when it was selected by Martha Stewart to produce a line of licensed furniture and then again in 2006 with a licensing venture with the Smithsonian Institution.
In 2009, Bernhardt Furniture launched a new division, Bernhardt Hospitality, with a separate sales force to supply stocking and custom furniture to the hospitality marketplace.
The Bernhardt dedication to community and employees reaches well beyond the city limits of Lenoir, North Carolina. Bernhardt Furniture Company endeavors to conduct business in compliance with international fair trade laws and widely accepted norms of fairness and human decency, and expects its suppliers to do the same.
Bernhardt is committed to environmental excellence in all of its business activities - from the design of its products to its manufacturing processes. Alex Bernhardt, Sr., Chairman and CEO of Bernhardt Furniture said, “We want to go beyond simply complying with environmental legislation and regulations; we want to become leading supporters in our community and industry. As a family-owned and operated company, we care a great deal about the health and welfare of our employees, our customers, our suppliers, our community, and our planet.”
Through the years, Bernhardt designs have garnered a host of prestigious awards from industry experts and the media. Among those awards, the American Society of Furniture Designers (ASFD) has recognized the excellence of Bernhardt’s designs with multiple Pinnacle Design Achievement Awards.
Today the company operates eight manufacturing facilities and its corporate headquarters in North Carolina, and employs approximately 1,250 people worldwide including five overseas offices. Bernhardt operates a 75,000 sq. ft. showroom located in High Point, NC. Bernhardt Furniture can be found in homes, offices, and hotels worldwide.