Building a Hardwood Flooring Business Across Four Generations
Hearthwood is established with 70 years of experience crafting hardwood floors for American homes. Their legacy spans four generations. Over the course of this time, they have made a profound impact on the industry. Their ethos revolves around quality, innovation, and transparency. Without their ingenuity, American homes wouldn’t have access to engineered hardwood flooring. As the company steps into the next generation of leadership, we want to take a look back at how Hearthwood came to be, and address the vision for the future.
First Generation: Making History
Hearthwood’s story begins with L.W. Anderson, an Indiana native who moved to Chicago to work as a General Manager for plywood manufacturer Daystrum Corporation. In 1938, Anderson made an effort to solve a problem for the U.S. Navy. They needed a stable flooring that could withstand consistent exposure to water and moisture. Anderson’s thorough comprehension of plywood’s properties gave him the idea to glue plywood directly to the concrete slabs. The results created the first ever American Engineered Wood Flooring, and Anderson became the U.S. Navy’s supplier during WWII. Taking the success from this transaction, Anderson joined forces with a couple of mills in the Carolinas and started Standard Plywood, Inc. His contribution was the creation and formulation of engineered hardwood flooring that would forever influence the way private households constructed and designed their homes.
Second Generation: Streamlining the Process
As a recent graduate from Northwestern University Anderson’ son, Bob, moved himself and his new wife, Dodie, to Chicago to help his father with the business. After the sudden death of the mill’ manager, Bob stepped into place taking over the role of manufacturing and operations manager. His sharp skills with figures helped elevate the business’ growth. After one of Standard Plywood’ plants burned to the ground in 1954, Bob and the rest of the company joined forces with Cincinnati Flooring Company. His shrewd skills not only returned them to production within 90 days, but Bob and his father turned around and purchased the company to become vertically integrated. While interior trends started to shift towards carpeting, Bob used his skills to turn a profit while he watched as the competition began to buckle under the changing economy. Without his eye for business, the company wouldn’t have prospered into what it is today.
Third Generation: Innovation and Sustainability
The third generation starts with Bob’ son-in-law, Don Finkell. Schooled as an architect, Don’ skillset marries the technical and creative to move the business forward. He’ well-known and respected within the industry as a renowned champion of sustainability and domestic manufacturing. Throughout his tenure, Don and his team managed to achieve many firsts, not only for the company, but for the industry. It started in 1986, with the creation of the very first hickory engineered wood floor. Innovation continued in 1990 to produce the first full filled urethane finish. By ’96, they created the Aluminum Oxide wear resistant finish and designed the first “rustic” collection. His accomplishments don’t stop there. In 2001, Don was the first to produce the first pre-finished hand scraped floor. After 25 years of success, Don oversaw the sale of the company to Shaw Industries where he continued to run the wood business. After a brief retirement 2013, he decided he still had innovative product ideas and a firm commitment to domestic manufacturing. He then started a new Tennessee-based engineered wood flooring company and began to mentor his daughter, Allie.
Fourth Generation: Changing the Face of the Industry
Wood flooring is the foundation of the home and an investment, and Hearthwood’s newest EVP Allie Finkell is well aware of the product’s ability to change the lives of the consumer. She displays incredible intuition and expertise of both the industry and products, and it only takes 5 minutes of conversation with her to understand the profound influence she will have moving the company into the future.
Starting out when she was just 12, Allie worked with her sister in the family’s garage putting together free product samples that consumers had ordered through the company’s website. The experience instilled at a very early age trends, inventory and product management. Eventually, Allie went on to get a degree in Economics and pursued a career in advertising. It wasn’t long before she re-joined the flooring business, working in sales and marketing for both family and outside companies. After 8 years experience in the commercial segment for the two largest flooring companies in the world, she decided to join her father, Don, as a partner and Vice President. In 2017, Allie developed Hearthwood, and the family’s new flagship brand was born.
She believes transparency is at the center of the brand and the business. Her goal for Hearthwood is to continue the family’s legacy of innovation, sustainability, and craftsmanship, but packaged in a way that is relevant to future generations. How she will impact the industry is her passion for bridging the gap between consumer and product. By telling the story of the family, she can convey to consumers the intention behind every decision. From sustainably sourcing wood, manufacturing to the highest quality, and by marketing in a way that is honest and representative of the product.
With a thorough understanding of the product and the willingness to explore the market, it won’t be long before Hearthwood becomes a household name.
To learn more about the benefits of installing hardwood in your home, contact Hearthwood Flooring today by calling 888.415.9496.