In 1967, National Office was founded in Westlake, Ohio (Cleveland suburb) as National Electro-Coatings, when Chairman Robert Schneider began offering “on-site electro-static refinishing of metal office furniture”. At this time, metal desks and file were the predominant type of office furniture. When customers grew tired of boring colors or their offices needed a facelift, we were able to go into their offices and repaint their furniture overnight. The furniture was ready for use the next morning! This was state-of-the- art technology for the time.
As the popularity of our electro-static painting grew, we began manufacturing laminate (Formica) desk tops, which enabled us to completely convert old desks into new desks.
In the 1970’s, we found success with Federal Government contracts through the General Services Administration (GSA). National Electro-Coatings had paint crews travelling the entire country to service Federal facilities. In order to properly service customers nationally, we opened sales offices in Seattle and San Francisco. Some of the more memorable projects are Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Fort Knox, FAA Towers, National Weather Service, IRS offices, and Social Security offices.
As the 1980’s rolled in, National Electro-Coatings had to adjust our marketing strategies. GSA contracts were becoming undesirable due to red-tape and unprofitable prices. With our ability to service clients nationally, it was a natural progression to pursue large commercial accounts – large employers with a lot of metal furniture. Our list of customers read like the Fortune 500 List – IBM, Chrysler, Ford Motor, AT&T, Northrup, Grumman, Boeing, McDonnell Douglas, etc. We added sales offices in Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Los Angeles.
Later in the 1980’s, it was necessary to adjust our business plan. Companies were converting offices from freestanding desks into workstations or cubicles. This resulted in a serious reduction in the quantity of metal furniture available for painting. We adjusted by adding new services – panel refurbishing, chair reupholstering and wood refinishing. Our panel refurbishing service became a home run. We were completing major refurbishing projects around the country with same customer base as described earlier.
In 1989, we were asked by a customer to provide additional Steelcase panels for their project in Chicago. At this time, we were only refurbishing their existing panels. Of course, we said “yes”, and we proceeded to successfully fulfill our commitment. This individual transaction dramatically changed our business. We changed our focus to become the best remanufacturer of Steelcase workstations – and we did!
In 1990, we changed our business name to National Office Services to better reflect the nature of our company. In addition, we moved from Westlake to a 50,000 square foot building in Lakewood, Ohio. The larger building allowed us to focus on the remanufacturing of Steelcase Avenir and 9000 stations, which includes panels, worksurfaces, and painting.
As demand continued for our workstations (cubes), we started to included seating, storage, tables, and desks. At this point, we became an office furniture dealer, which featured remanufactured office furniture. To properly present our furniture, we opened retail showrooms in Downtown Cleveland and the Lyndhurst / Beachwood area.
By 1997, it was very apparent our Lakewood building could not support our growth, so we purchased a 180,000 square foot manufacturing building in Brook Park, Ohio near Cleveland Hopkins Airport. With this facility, we were able to implement efficiencies with our production lines. We truly became an office furniture manufacturing company.
In 1998, we established a factory showroom within our manufacturing plant. By doing so, we decided to close our other retail showrooms.
As our manufacturing continued to improve, we began to seek office furniture dealers located outside of Northern Ohio to sell our Remanufactured Steelcase stations. Our marketing plan now involves wholesale accounts throughout the country, and retail accounts in Northern Ohio from Cleveland, Akron, and Canton to Youngstown, and Sandusky.
In 2000, we branded our office furniture as “gen² Office Furniture”, which enhanced the image of our high quality, environmentally-friendly, sustainable line of furniture. Our gen² Office Furniture line now includes Avenir and 9000 workstations, desks, tables, storage, and chairs.
In 2007, we expanded our building by constructing a 35,000 square foot warehouse and distribution facility. Once again, this new building improved our material handling and efficiencies, which led to improved products.
In 2008, National Office and North Coast Office Furniture merged operations. North Coast was a serious competitor with a similar business plan. The combined company was an immediate success.
The longevity of National Office is due to the hard work of our team members. We have a “can-do” attitude, and the willingness to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations. Changes in the economy, markets, customers, products, and people are inevitable. By embracing change, we will continue to find success.
Robert W. Schneider