The Davis Furniture story reflects the “spirit of enterprise” so common in the early development of the furniture industry in High Point, North Carolina. During World War II, John Turner Davis, Sr. recognized what many enterprising High Pointers had already seen during sixty years of furniture manufacturing in the area. Starting a family business was way to establish future prosperity for him and his family.
At the time of his realization, John was working as an upholstery foreman at Tomlinson Furniture, itself an old family business started in the mid 1800’s. His sister Dorothy L. Davis was working as a bookkeeper with the new Heritage Furniture Company. This pair had an excellent knowledge of the furniture industry, and so in 1944 the Davis Upholstery Company was founded. Located in a small shop at 1315 South Main Street, John and Dorothy’s first focus was on upholstery repair work.
Soon the Davis shop moved around the corner to 115 East Davis Avenue, at the south end of Hamilton Street. This early operation employed three upholsterers, a sewer, and a maintenance man, and had a finishing area on the second floor. Since the shop was next door to the city’s southern-most fire station, there was also a labor pool of off-duty firemen available when business was booming. Soon John T. Davis, Jr. returned from the war, and married Frances Honbarrier, joining the operation as a manager.
By the mid-1950s the days of reupholstery work were a thing of the past, so the business refocused its efforts on the manufacturing of new occasional chairs and living room furniture. The company listed as officers John T. Davis, Sr., president, John T. Davis, Jr., vice president of manufacturing, Hattie Davis, secretary, and Dorothy Davis Haines, treasurer.
With success came the need for more space, so a parcel of land was acquired at 602 Linden (the company’s current location), and a new building was erected by 1953. During this period, Davis was finding a new market with colleges and universities up and down the east coast. Florida State University placed an order for over 800 chairs in 1954 after testing the quality of the Davis product by tossing a sample chair from a second story window. As other sizable orders came in, the firm realized it had found its niche. For the next twenty-five years the emphasis would be on durable, attractive pieces for university environments.
Upon the death of his father in 1967, John T. Davis, Jr., became president and the company was renamed Davis Furniture Industries, Incorporated. During the 1970s, a new approach toward manufacturing office and executive furniture began to take shape, and the corporation progressed to the third generation as both of John’s sons joined the organization. Randy Davis joined the company in 1973 and retired as vice-president of sales and marketing in 1996. Danny Davis, the current President, joined the company in 1977. Ashley Davis, Danny’s daughter, is the fourth generation of Davis’ to carry on the tradition. She started with the company in December of 2000 as a Sales and Marketing Assistant.
A new direction in product design and development took place in the late 70’s through licensing European designs. Davis approached Driepunkt of Germany and forged a licensing agreement by which the company was to manufacture German products in North America. This new approach was instituted as a means to find better contemporary designs which would combine both quality and function. To date, Davis has had licensee agreements with nine different European manufacturers. In turn, Davis has licensed their designs to five manufacturers in Europe, Italy, Australia, Japan and Switzerland.
Davis’ new image that has emerged from carefully selected furniture offerings has been one of an industry leader in design. As part of the modernization of Davis, a new corporate slogan has emerged that signifies the marketing and product strategy…“design is a choice”
Danny Davis, the current President of Davis Furniture Industries best explains this new philosophy: “We have a saying here at Davis, “It’s all about the product, and the product is about design. At Davis, with every product we bring to the drawing table…the focus is always about design…the aesthetics of the design…the function of the design…and the value of the design. This is what our customers look to Davis to offer them.”