Casual Industry Salutes 2014 Award Winners

September 19, 2014
Chicago – The International Casual Furnishings Association (ICFA) honored top retailers, manufacturers, representatives and designers this week at a gala awards celebration during the International Casual Furniture and Accessories Market here.

All segments of the industry gathered at the Chicago Field Museum Thursday, Sept. 18, to recognize manufacturing and retailing excellence, spotlight top product designs and pay tribute to the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award recipients.

Individuals and companies honored during the event included the following:

The Apollo Awards recognize retail excellence in the sales and marketing of outdoor furnishings. Finalists must demonstrate outstanding accomplishments and commitment to customer service. Winners in two categories, singe store and multi-store, were selected from a group of 10 finalists through an online ballot.

Paine’s Patio, Pocasset, Mass., was the single store winner. Great Gatherings, Annapolis, Md., and Gainesville, Va., was the multi-store category winner.

Finalists in the single store category included Daylight Home & Garden, San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Outdoor Elegance, LaVerne, Calif.; The Pool & Patio Center, Metairie, La.; and Sunnyland Furniture, Dallas. Finalists in the multi-store category were Jack Wills Outdoor Living, Tulsa, Okla.; Outside in Style, Austin, Texas; Patios Plus, Rancho Mirage, Calif.; and Yard Art Patio & Fireplace, Irving, Texas.

The Design Excellence competition recognizes products for their overall design, as well as their marketability, innovation, color, construction and imaginative use of materials. Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. co-sponsors the awards. The 2014 winners included:

Chaise Lounge: Mamagreen Natun Sun Lounger
Complementary Casual Products: JANUS et Cie Vino Cocktail Table
Dining Bar Chair: Barlow Tyrie Monterey Teak and Rope Chair
Dining Bar Table: Barlow Tyrie Equinox Ceramic Top Extending Table
Fabric: Glen Raven Inc. for Sunbrella, Glitz Silver
Heating/Firepit: Pride Family Brands 40-inch Fire Pit and Coffee Table
Lounge Seating with Cushion: Mamagreen TWZT Upholstery Accent Armchair
Lounge Seating without Cushion: Koverton Farfalla Lounge Chair
Rugs and Flooring: Couristan Ariatta/ Navy (Covington Collection)
Outdoor Lighting: Patio Living Concepts Versailles Floor Lamp
Shade: TUCCI Vineyard Shade Pod

The Lillian B. Winchester “Best of Show” award, selected from among the 11 category winners listed above, went to the Mamagreen Natun Sun Lounger.

The prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award is reserved for individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the casual furniture industry and to their individual communities. The 2014 honorees were William S. Brown Sr. and Fred Schlesinger.

Brown was a leader in the casual furniture industry for 20 years. After some 15 years in the steel industry, he shifted his attention to furniture manufacturing, working for Delwood Furniture Company and then Burris Inds., a North Carolina-based upholstery manufacturer. In 1980 he was named president of Marathon Corporation, a privately-owned Birmingham, Ala., conglomerate that included Winston Furniture, an aluminum patio furniture manufacturer. In early 1986, Brown and a group of investors acquired Winston from Marathon, and in 1987 they acquired Lyon-Shaw, a North Carolina wrought iron furniture manufacturer. Brown remained president, CEO and an equity owner of Winston until early 1993, when he sold his equity interest and retired.

Throughout his casual industry career, Brown was active in the Summer and Casual Furniture Manufacturers Association (SCFMA) – which preceded the ICFA – and served as chairman, president and director for over 10 years. He also served as a director on the American Furniture Manufacturers Association board for six years. He died in 1998 after a brief illness. He was 62.

Schlesinger was one of the founding members of the SCFMA in 1959, and he served on the board of directors for 15 years. His McAurther Collection received the first Lillian B. Winchester “Best of Show” award. He is also said to have hired the industry’s first female sales representative.

He started his career in 1946 at the Samuel S. Perry Company, an importer of sporting goods and wicker/rattan in San Francisco. The company later changed its name to the Hurricane Import Company, and Schlesinger remained there until the mid-1970s, serving as vice president of sales. In 1974 he launched his own company, Typhoon, and remained president until it closed and he retired in 1991. During this time, he “founded” the informal 5:01 club, whose sole purpose was to bring together manufacturers, representatives and retailers at the end of the day to enjoy camaraderie. In 2010, friends brought Schlesinger, the honorary chairman of the 5:01 club, to Chicago to celebrate his birthday and rekindle old friendships. Now 88, Schlesinger resides in Burlingame, Calif.

One manufacturer was honored in each of 10 categories for the design and quality of their products, along with their merchandising, customer service, ethics, communications and trade relations. Winners were:

Alfresco Home – Complementary Casual Products
Gensun– Cast Metal
Jensen Leisure Furniture – Wood Casual
O.W. Lee – Wrought Iron/Aluminum
Patio Renaissance – Rattan/Wicker/Woven Materials
Seaside Casual Furniture – Resin/Fiberglass
Summer Classics – Outdoor Lighting
Trans Ocean Import Co. – Outdoor Carpeting/Rugs/Flooring
Treasure Garden – Shade Products
Tropitone Furniture – Tubular Materials Furniture

From among the 10 category winners listed above, O.W. Lee was named “Manufacturer of the Year” for the third year in a row. Both the category winners and the Manufacturer of the Year were selected in online voting.

This award recognizes an outstanding sales representative within the casual furnishing industry. Candidates were selected based on leadership, professionalism, exceptional service, communication skills, knowledge and product training expertise. The 2014 winner, selected from four finalists and determined through online voting, was Charlie Hesson.

After receiving a degree in Management Information Systems from the University of Rhode Island in 2001, Hesson returned to his home state of Minnesota to work as a management consultant with Accenture. However, surrounded by a family of sales representatives, he went to work with his father – at the time representing Lloyd Flanders and Gloster – after only a year and a half with Accenture. After two years, Hesson split from his father’s business to develop his own package of lines. He currently represents Gloster and Telescope, and continues to consider his dad his number one mentor. He lives in Falmouth, Maine, with his wife and two children.

Finalists for Sales Representative of the Year were H. Gary Dobbins, Brett French and Justin Pfahl. ICFA manufacturer, retailer, designer and supplier members reviewed the nominees and cast their ballots in online voting in August.