A Brief History
Innovative product solutions and customization is the cornerstone of KI, continuing a tradition established at the company’s inception in 1941 as Krueger Metal Products, Inc. in Aurora, Ill. The war effort made manufacturing resources scarce. Daily, founder Al Krueger would call on steel companies to purchase materials to manufacture the company’s first folding chairs. The scrap materials available determined what he could produce, a novel and flexible way of manufacturing. Even today, the environmentally conscious company finds new ways to use resources wisely and innovatively.
In 1945, Krueger moved its headquarters to Green Bay, Wis. to support the company’s continued growth. By the 1950s, Krueger employed approximately 50 people, produced 500 chairs a day and posted sales of just less than $500,000. In 1964, the Tupelo, Miss. plant was established. That year, the company sold just less than $4 million of folding and multi-purpose chairs and tables. It was also the year Richard Resch joined the company.
After gaining valuable experience working the shop floor and volunteering for many challenging projects, Resch was promoted to Executive Vice President. As the 1970s came to a close, he guided the company into the contract furniture market. Under his direction, the company flourished with employment growing to nearly 700 and sales climbing to $40 million.
In 1979, the trustees for Krueger’s daughters decided to sell the company. While large venture capital firms looked at Krueger Metal Products, Resch put in a bid for the company himself despite double-digit inflation, high unemployment and prime interest rates approaching 20 percent. Resch’s group: Northwestern Mutual Life with contributions from Marshall & Isley Corp., and other banks, took over the company in 1980. In 1983, the company became Krueger, Inc. and Resch was named CEO and president.
The Manitowoc, Wis. plant was established in 1984 and sales topped $66 million. By 1986, when the international division was established, the company maintained market leadership in commercial sales yet 53% of sales volume was in contract sales.
Company growth continued with employment at more than 1,000 and sales totaling more than $125 million. The company succeeded in breaking into the top 10 in contract furniture sales. In 1988, Krueger, Inc. combined its commercial and contract furniture divisions, becoming Krueger International and establishing itself as KI. In addition, Pallas Textiles was established as a wholly-owned subsidiary.
KI entered the 90s in a whirlwind of growth and acquisition. The Winona, Miss. plant was established in 1991,the Pembroke, Ontario plant opened in 1992. In 1994, KI became the first 100 percent ISO 9001 certified furniture manufacturer. Then, in 1998, KI acquired AGI, Spacesaver and KI-LA (ADD); and the Bonduel, Wis. and Pontotoc, Miss. plants were established. KI acquired the KI-Kentucky plant (Period) in 1999. KI evolved from a manufacturing-driven company to a marketing-driven company and became the fastest-growing company in the contract furniture industry during this decade.
Today, KI is approaching $700 million in sales and ranks as the sixth-largest contract furniture manufacturer in the industry. KI employs nearly 3,000 people and currently operates nine manufacturing facilities around the globe.
We understand that we couldn’t have enjoyed the continuous growth and success without the support of our employees, the communities in which we work and our valued customers. We give back in every way we can, both through extensive civic involvement and through sustainable practices that go far beyond the minimum requirements. KI continues to grow as we keep faith with the principles that have made us one of the world’s leading contract furniture companies:
- listening to our customers;
- serving their needs;
- supporting our community; and
- protecting our environment.
With that as our foundation, we hope to continue providing smart contract furniture solutions to the markets we serve, including educational, university, healthcare, business and government.