Since 1902

Charles Edward Gerken and John R. Galpin became partners and founded Galpin & Gerken, an upholstery company specializing in repairing and reupholstering furniture. The company was located on Washington Street in Toledo, Ohio.

A one-hundred-plus-year history with our eye to the future.

Norwalk Furniture Company proudly manufactures high quality custom upholstery in Norwalk, Ohio. Located halfway between Detroit and Cleveland on Lake Erie, we benefit from a tradition of family farming and manufacturing that has long supported the automobile and related industries. We are people who like to “make things” and we are especially proud to be a part of the current “maker movement” in America.

 

Our long tradition of handcrafting fine custom upholstery began when the founders, the Gerken family, newly arrived from Germany, began to upholster buggy seats for carriages 117 years ago. In 2008, the fourth generation of the family decided to close the company. But, twelve community-minded families banded together to buy the facility in order to keep jobs in our town.

 

Today, we operate in a “mid-century” modern 440,000 square foot factory that employees 225 craftspeople, many of whom are second and third generation artisans. This team creates over 40,000 pieces each year, one at a time, by hand, with each piece built to the specifications of our dealer partners for their customers.

1906-1919

In 1906, the company was reorganized, after several years of surviving a deflated economy and modest company profits, and changed its name to the Maumee Upholstering Company. In 1917, the company moved to Grand Rapids, Ohio in order to tap a new pool of laborers.

1920-1934

In 1919, the company moved to a small building in Norwalk. The partnership between Edward Gerken and John Galpin dissolved. Edward incorporated the company and renamed it the Norwalk Upholstering Company.

In 1925, Edward’s son, Ray, worked with his father and eventually became a furniture salesman.

1935-1955

Ray Gerken assumed leadership of the business upon his father's death in 1934.

In 1936 the operation was moved into a rented space in the A.B. Chase Piano Company building on Newton Street in Norwalk, Ohio. A year later the corporation bought the building.

1934-1955

The last chair built before converting to WWII defense production. Ray contributed to the WWII effort by converting to produce war materials. There were government contracts for jungle hammocks, foot locker and grenade boxes. The company returned to upholstery afterwards.

1956-1964

Norwalk Furniture featured in Furniture Design & Manufacturing Magazine in 1962 for the utilization of componentized construction.

1965-1983

In 1965, Norwalk Upholstering Company became Norwalk Furniture Corporation.

In 1969, Ray Gerken stepped aside as president and his sons, Jack and Ned Gerken, became president and vice president respectively.

1984-1996

In 1984, the corporation launched a retail franchise operation that granted franchise agreements to operate under the name Fine Designs Sofa Gallery.

In 1992, the retail franchise operation’s name was changed to Norwalk - The Furniture Idea.

1997-2008

Edward James Gerken, Jr. and James Ethan Gerken, sons of Jack and Ned respectively and fourth generation of Gerkens, were the company presidents during 1997-2008.

In 2002, Norwalk Furniture celebrated a century of accomplishments and fine furniture.

2008-Present

Norwalk Furniture suffered from the economic swoon during 2008 and the company got into difficulty. Twelve local families banded together at the height of the 2008 recession and would not let Norwalk Furniture fail. These families are still the present owners of the company, which is now named Norwalk Custom Order Furniture, dba Norwalk Furniture.

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