Banner Staff Writer
Technology has progressed significantly in all sectors of business, including the furniture industry. The road has led from simple rocking chairs when Ray Jackson began building furniture, to today’s electronic comforts built into recliners and other furnishings Jackson Furniture creates.
Jackson began something new at the old Cleveland Chair Co., which produced the rockers and stationary chairs beginning in 1886.
In 1933, he opened the upholstery business known today as Jackson Furniture, manufacturing sofas and chairs.
By 1941, the family had been in the furniture business for more than 75 years and had retailers like Sears Roebuck Company as clients. It was one of the largest family-owned companies in the U.S.
Today, Jackson has international ties in the industry.
According to Jackson spokesman Todd DeLuca, it takes 900-plus employees to produce the thousands of furniture items at Jackson.
The old Cleveland Chair Co. building burned recently, but Jackson’s relocated production had already been upgraded at three other local buildings.
The main location now is just up the street from the old Cleveland Chair building, and was established in the 1950s.
“Furniture manufacturing used to be a “more labor-intensive” business,” DeLuca explained.
A degree of automation has now been introduced to Jackson which will streamline elements of production of the world-famous Catnapper recliners, sofas and love seats, sectionals and stationary chairs.
“It’s still a very hands-on process,” DeLuca said.
Growth and change has been constant during the past century.
Jackson will be hiring an additional 50 to 60 employees later this year.
The King Edward Avenue location is Plant No. 1.
DeLuca said Jackson’s line of furnishings is manufactured there. The No. 4 location on Industrial Lane makes the Catnapper line of sectionals and Catnapper recliners are crafted at the No. 5 plant nearby.
The first recliners began being produced by Jackson in the 1950s. Its integral workings were engineered by a University of Tennessee graduate, according to DeLuca.
Motion recliners have been a staple in households.
The frames are still constructed of wood, but advances are now leaning toward electronics and convenience.
The Support Department at Jackson’s facilities fill the cushions as frames are built. The pieces come together in a streamlined effort which is now being converted to a conveyor line.
Computer monitors indicate production levels.
In the days gone by, DeLuca said upholstering was a craft developed through time, which built valuable experience.
“It would take months to train new upholsterers,” DeLuca said.
Most of the chairs, recliners and other furnishings built now are crafted in much the same way as in the past.
Frames are still built on-site and then distributed to the work stations or conveyors. After completion and a rigorous inspection including making sure all mechanical and electrical components work properly, the furniture is packaged and stored only a short time, eliminating much of the need for extended warehousing.
“We are changing with the times over time,” DeLuca said.
The addition of a newer production schedule and processes — along with materials and electronics such as iPod docks and computer tops built into the furniture — are some of the changes of the present and future.
Another change has been patterns and materials. Leather and microfibers have been added to the line.
“We produce very little patterned products now,” DeLuca said.
Vinyls have also waned in the industry but are still an upholstery items.
Changes will continue as the family-operated Jackson Furniture continues to grow in Cleveland.