Petey Fleischut and Oliver Ma Receive ICFA Lifetime Achievement Award
Fleischut opened her first outdoor furniture store in 1984 after struggling to find furniture for her own vacation home on the New Jersey shoreline. Called The Sand Piper, the shop was four hours from her home in York, Pennsylvania. Originally planned as a seasonal shop that would be open three months a year, the business thrived and was soon open seven months a year. The commute became more tolerable when her husband’s career moved them to Hockessin, Delaware. Then, in 1995, an historic mill property became available in Hockessin, and she closed the little beach shop in New Jersey and opened Casual Marketplace.
The village of Hockessin is just minutes from Wilmington and the Delaware shoreline. Fleischut transformed the 1872 mill into a three-floor showroom with two outdoor pavilions featuring over 1,800 pieces of casual furniture, hearth products, giftware and holiday décor. Her husband, Harold, joined her in the business about 10 years later. She handles buying and merchandising, while he handles finances. Today they have 15 loyal employees, including one who’s been on board since the day they first opened the doors. Casual Marketplace received the prestigious Apollo Award for retail excellence in 1999 and was a finalist for the honor in 2001 and 2002.
Fleischut was invited to serve on the board of the Casual Furniture Retailers during her first year in business, and she’s been involved in industry leadership ever since. She was instrumental in advancing the merger of the CFR with the manufacturers’ trade association in 2008, and served as ICFA’s first vice chair. She is currently completing a three-year term on the ICFA Board of Directors.
Ma entered the shade products business with his brother in 1975, exporting beach and garden umbrellas from Taiwan to mass merchants and outdoor furniture manufacturers in the United States. In 1980, he opened a sales office in New York City, but he found that specialty stores wanted customized products made in the United States. So, in 1984, he built a small factory in Baldwin Park and launched the Treasure Garden brand.
Throughout the 1990s, the company strengthened its customer service and product development. Then, in 2000, Ma built a vertically integrated factory in Ningbo, China. Aluminum extrusion, zinc die cast and plastic injection molding all were handled in the same plant, minimizing cost and maximizing quality control. During this time, the company introduced many patented designs and developed protective furniture covers. Expansion into the European, Australian and New Zealand markets resulted in another new factory, built in 2008. Diversifying into additional product categories, including pop-up tents, pavilions, retractable awnings and accessories, allowed the company to balance its production with products for different seasons.
Treasure Garden’s quality products have resulted in seven straight Manufacturer Leadership awards in the shade category from the ICFA retail membership. The award recognizes the company’s products, people and production efforts.
Ma and Fleischut will be honored during the ICFA Awards Gala at The Field Museum on September 14, during Casual Market Chicago. Tickets for the event are available at www.ICFAnet.org.