Casual Industry Salutes 2016 Award Winners

September 26, 2016
CHICAGO – The International Casual Furnishings Association (ICFA) honored top retailers, manufacturers, representatives and designers this week at a gala awards celebration during the Casual Market Chicago. All segments of the industry gathered at the Chicago Field Museum Thursday, Sept. 22, to recognize manufacturing and retailing excellence, spotlight top product designs and pay tribute to the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award recipients. Awards presented or recognized 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.

Village Green, Rockford, Ill., was the single-store category winner. ABSCO Fireplace and Patio, with stores in Birmingham and Pelham, Ala., was the multi-store category winner.

Finalists in the single store category included Kolo Collection, Atlanta; Outdoor Elegance, LaVerne, Calif.; Patios Plus, Rancho Mirage, Calif.; and Sunnyland Furniture, Dallas. Finalists in the multi-store category were Daylight Home, Lighting & Patio, San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Elegant Outdoor Living, Bonita Springs, Naples and Fort Myers, Fla.; Great Gatherings, Annapolis and Gaithersburg, Md., and Gainesville and Fairfax, Va., and Outside in Style, Austin and San Antonio, Texas.


The Design Excellence competition recognizes products in 11 categories for their overall design, as well as their marketability, innovation, color, construction and imaginative use of materials. Eligible designs must have been introduced in the marketplace within the previous year and must be offered by companies exhibiting at Casual Market Chicago. Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. co-sponsors the awards. The 2016 category winners included:

  • Chaise Lounge: Jensen Leisure Coral Chaise
  • Complementary Casual Products: TUUCI Equinox Cabana
  • Dining Bar Chair: Lloyd Flanders Wildwood Dining Chair
  • Dining Bar Table: Gloster Split Raw Dining Table
  • Fabric: Outdura Spumoni Crystal
  • Heating/Firepit: O.W. Lee Creighton 42-inch Square Fire Pit
  • Lounge Seating with Cushion: Gloster Grand Weave
  • Lounge Seating without Cushion: Seaside Casual MAD Fushion Chat Chair
  • Rugs and Flooring: Trans-Ocean Ravella Akumal Ocean Rug
  • Outdoor Lighting: Gloster Ambient Cocoon
  • Shade: TUUCI Ocean Master Max Zero Horizon Cantilever


The Lillian B. Winchester “Best of Show” award, selected from among the 11 category winners listed above, went to Gloster’s Grand Weave (pictured above left). In addition, Gloster’s Grand Weave was selected for the “Lilly” award in the Outdoor Furniture category. TUUCI’s Equinox Cabana (above right) received the “Lilly” for Outdoor Accents.


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 2016 honorees were Joseph W. Watson and the late Merv Conn.

Like many young men of his generation, Watson sold Fuller Brushes door-to-door as a high schooler. But his penchant for sales continued long after his teenage years, eventually leading to his acquisition of a garden shop in his hometown of Towson, Maryland, in 1955. The garden shop “blossomed” into a $6 to $7 million garden center in just over a decade. Along the way, his brothers joined him in business, and they moved the garden center to nearby Lutherville in 1961, where burgeoning residential development led to continued growth and success. In 1986, Watson took the patio and fireplace departments, along with some adjoining real estate, and opened Watson’s Fireplace and Patio. Watson’s son, Steve, now operates the fireplace and patio store, while the garden center closed earlier this year. Watson was active in the leadership of the Casual Furniture Retailers group prior to its 2007 merger with the Summer and Casual Furniture Manufacturers Association, which later became the ICFA.

Conn joined Mallin Casual Furniture of Montebello, Calif., in 1963 as the shipping manager and worked his way up to general manager. In 1991, when the company was purchased by Minson Corp., Conn was named vice president of sales and marketing. Under his leadership, Mallin Casual Furniture was re-established as an industry leader known for comfort and style. Conn was active in the industry, joining the manufacturers’ association board in 1997. He was elected an officer in 2002 and served as president from 2004 to 2006 and as chairman from 2006 to 2007. Conn, who died unexpectedly in 2013 following complications from surgery, is fondly remembered by friends and colleagues as an expert negotiator with a keen eye for styles consumers would buy.


Ten leading manufacturers were honored for overall leadership reflecting the design and quality of their products, along with their merchandising, customer service, ethics, communications and trade relations. Winners, selected by ICFA members through online voting, were: Brown JordanCastelleGloster FurnitureJensen Leisure Furniture, Lloyd FlandersO.W. LeePatio RenaissanceTelescope Casual FurnitureTreasure Garden and Tropitone Furniture.


For the fifth year in a row, O.W. Lee was named “Manufacturer of the Year.” Like the Manufacturer Leadership winners, the Manufacturer of the Year is selected for the design and quality of their products, as well as outstanding merchandising, customer service, ethics, communications and trade relations.


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 2016 winner, selected from four finalists and determined through online voting, was Bryan Echols, of Echols Enterprises Inc., Charlotte, N.C. After a short stint in the banking industry in 1991, Echols realized a cubicle was not where he wanted to spend his future. Through his father, Bill Echols, he learned of a sales rep opportunity with Samsonite Furniture Company, and he soon realized he’d found his career path. He now represents O.W. Lee, Treasure Garden, Lloyd Flanders and Outdoor by Design. Finalists for Sales Representative of the Year were Randy Adams, Todd Crandall and Gary Moretti. ICFA members reviewed the nominees and cast their ballots in online voting in early September.