Furniture maker celebrates 75 years

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In 1979, Nucraft expanded its catalog to include a complete set of conference room solutions. Courtesy Nutcraft

Making office furniture is a family affair at Comstock Park-based Nucraft.

The company — now headed up by President and CEO Matt Schad and his brother, Brandon Schad, marketing manager — is celebrating its 75th year as a family-owned and -led company in the Grand Rapids area.

The brothers’ great-grandfather, George Schad, then superintendent at the former Stow & Davis Furniture Co. in Grand Rapids, left the security of his managerial role to try something new, founding Nucraft in 1945 with a partner.

The company started out producing solid walnut office accessories, such as letter trays, wastepaper baskets and “costumers,” or coat racks, to complement the desks and other wood office furniture being produced at the time by local manufacturers.

George Schad provided the “sweat equity” for the business, bringing to fruition the company’s designs and personally taking products by railcar to sell in large cities such as New York and Washington, D.C., according to Matt Schad.

“There are these stories of our great-grandfather, roaming the streets of New York with a coat rack over his shoulder, riding the subway, carrying that thing around and showing it to people,” Matt Schad said, laughing.

In the 1960s and ’70s, George Schad Jr. took the reins of the company, expanding into occasional tables, bookcases and desks, with sales growth largely driven by the government sector.

Tim Schad joined his father, George Schad Jr., in 1979 and eventually took over leadership, transforming Nucraft’s catalog from desks and accessories to a complete set of conference room solutions, as well as adding the ability to fill custom orders. During Tim Schad’s time, the company also built a showroom at Merchandise Mart in Chicago, where the annual NeoCon conference for the built industry is held each June.

In 2000, Bob Bockheim became the company’s first nonfamily president and led the charge into using industrial designers to tap into new product areas, including the integration of furniture and technology solutions, shifting from a dealer-driven focus to an art-and-design-heavy focus.

Bockheim recently retired, and Matt Schad, a 15-year Nucraft employee, added the title of president to the CEO role he had held since 2014. Before returning to West Michigan to work in the family business, Matt Schad and his wife, Diana Schad, now executive director of the Family Business Alliance in downtown Grand Rapids, both practiced law in Washington, D.C.

Brandon Schad left the Colorado ski industry about five years ago, returning to Grand Rapids to start a family with his wife, Colleen Schad.

Today, Nucraft offers an array of “premium” private office and meeting room furniture such as tables, credenzas, lecterns, desks, benches, case goods and marker boards.

As the office floor plan has shifted from half private office and half “other” to 25% private offices and 75% “other” during the past few years, Nucraft has adjusted its product portfolio to support those changing needs, offering standing-height tables for quick meetings, smaller tables for huddle rooms, training tables and tables that are integrated with power sources and can connect to monitors.

The company — which has between 200 and 300 employees with an average 10-year tenure — operates out of an approximately 300,000-square-foot manufacturing facility at 5151 West River Drive in Comstock Park.

The Schad brothers said whereas many small businesses tout their sense of community, the team at Nucraft operates more like a family, a place where everyone knows everyone else, and all people and ideas are valued.

Looking ahead to the future, Matt Schad and Brandon Schad said they plan to keep building on the foundation of consistency and excellence that was established by their family members before them, and they hope to remain a leader in meeting space furniture and private office solutions.

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