Made in America lives on at Trinity Furniture
December 1, 2015
Taking a tour of Trinity Furniture Inc.’s factory just south of High Point is like going back in time.
There is a warehouse with stacks of wood that will be shaped into chair frames. In another part of the building are piles of upholstery fabric that will cover the foam and wood. The finished products will be loaded into boxes in the plant and shipped to customers all over the country.
Every component for all but a fraction of the 800 types of furniture the company produces is made by American workers inside its Kennedy Road plant — a rarity indeed in an era when so much furniture is made offshore.
“Everybody here is made in America; I’m the import,” said Trinity Furniture President Jorge Lagueruela, a native of Cuba who started the business 30 years ago. “We are constantly approached at trade shows to source out things. But why? What made this country great was the manufacturing base. We won two world wars because we could outproduce the enemy.”
Lots of people talk with nostalgia about the good old days of American-made furniture. For Lagueruela, not only did they never leave, they’re better than ever.
Trinity Furniture is expanding, putting the finishing touches on a 24,000-square-foot addition to its plant because it needs more room for its warehouse and shipping operations.
Business is strong, Lagueruela said, with steady demand from the hospitals, retirement homes, colleges and other customers that buy its chairs and other furniture products.
In March, the company will celebrate its 30th anniversary. Over the years, Lagueruela has expanded the plant nine times. He now employs about 75 people.
Lagueruela, a graduate of what is now High Point University, co-founded the company after a stint working for Hatteras Yachts in High Point. Trinity Furniture built its business with government contract work, making furniture for military bases overseas.
It later landed more government work closer to home. Lagueruela proudly points out that lounge chairs, magazine racks, lecterns and other furniture pieces in the U.S. House of Representatives Rayburn Office Building were made in his plant, as were many of the black leather chairs used in U.S. Senate committee rooms.
Government work has slowed down considerably, and now the majority of the company’s furniture is made for commercial clients. Health care furniture has been a growing market, as the company has picked up a lot of work for assisted living center chains.
During a recent tour of the plant, Lagueruela’s daughter, Megan Lagueruela, the company’s vice president of marketing and sales, explained what went into the construction of a chair that was made for a hospital in Lafayette, La.
“We do lobby and in-room furniture like recliners and sleepers, as well as patient seating,” she said. “There are maybe 10 chairs in our line we don’t make frames for, because we don’t have the capability to wood turn or steam bend. Everything else we do make, out of 800 pieces in our entire collection.”
Lobby and lounge furniture for colleges and universities also has become a big part of Trinity Furniture’s business.
The process of creating these items is intricate, from the shaping of each piece of wood to the installation of the removable antimicrobial moisture barrier that encapsulates the foam.
Each step in the manufacturing process is carried out by skilled craftsmen who once filled the Triad’s furniture plants. Lagueruela said he has very low turnover among his employees.
He’s hired some laid-off employees of Patrician Furniture in High Point, which recently shut down. The company was one of the last local makers of office and health care furniture with domestic manufacturing.
“What’s happening now is, we go to Walmart and we buy from China,” Lagueruela said. “Of course, I shop there too, at times. It’s just one of those things where they’re so huge. But when it comes down to wondering where our jobs went, they went overseas. Are they going to come back? Probably not.”
Source: High Point Enterprise