Made in Michigan: Woodard Furniture - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Made in Michigan: Woodard Furniture

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(11/07/12) - A Mid-Michigan business has been successful - despite wars, economic depression and overseas competition. The company says an incredible workforce has been able to overcome adversity through the decades.

It's considered by some to be the best patio furniture in the world. The 150 workers at the Woodard plant certainly agree.

"I'm very proud. It's exciting to see outdoor furniture is still produced and manufactured in Michigan," said Steven Inhulsen, production manager, Woodard Furniture.

Woodard began making furniture in downtown Owosso in 1866. The company - which survived a tornado in 1911 - moved to its present location in 1995.

"When you know what you want, you buy Woodard. You get 40 different finishes. We have 300 different fabrics. We have over 1,000 different pieces of furniture," said Louie Zelenka, vice president and general manager at Woodard.

"Actually, they go all over the world and it does make me proud to find out we are actually shipping out of the country," said Tom Wenzlick, who has 14 years at Woodard.

The work is all done in house, from the welding to the stitching of cushions, and it's done by an experienced crew.

"The average employee at Woodard has 15 to 17 years seniority. So we have a very seasoned staff," Zelenka said.

"There are two to three generations of families that work here," said Reed Stauffer, a long time Woodard employee.

Woodard is very proud of its products. If you have some Woodard furniture that's 50 years old and needs to be repainted, Woodard will do that for you for a small fee.

"We get a lot of that, especially for those people that have the older collections they just love," Zelenka said.

Although best-known for its wrought iron products, Woodard also makes aluminum and wicker furniture.

"We do a lot of hotel business. We do a lot of Caribbean type resorts," Zelenka said.

Recent years have brought stiff competition from overseas, including China. But Woodard isn't about to change a successful strategy.

"We haven't lowered our standards of quality, which may cost us a little more." 

"If you don't have quality, then your stuff is just junk and it looks like everybody else's," said     Sarah Schoch, who has 13 years seniority at Woodard.

That competition has inspired Woodard employees to work more efficiently.

"I certainly think we can work smarter, but we also have to go harder," Wenzlick said.

"The workers know their jobs. They're going to be the ones to suggest how to make it better," Inhulsen said.

As to the future, "It's a changing world, but we're changing with it," Zelenka said.

"I believe we're on a comeback in Michigan. We're going to see more and more people go back to quality versus price," Inhulsen said.

For more information on Woodard Furniture, click here.

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