Ringing the side door of 509 North Oak Street in Grantsburg means a hoarse, loud buzzer goes off inside, where a flurry of activity is apparent, and a security guard dog greets everyone.
Well, ‘Kuna’ the dog is actually a host, of sorts, as the huge former manufacturing complex is once again the place to design, manufacture, assemble, finish and ship furniture.
The long-dormant Nordic furniture factory in Grantsburg is getting a whole new lease of life, with a vision from several local owners who are spearheading the effort to create sofas, loveseats, chairs and more. and to do everything here, for an international market.
“We know we can do anything here,” co-owner Blake Hewitt said. “We want to bring this industry back to the region.”
Formerly known as Fresh Industries, the manufacturing company is known worldwide for home furnishings. , and started producing high quality home furniture again.
The 50,000 square foot manufacturing facility is buzzing with creation, with a small team building frames for chairs, sofas, loveseats and more, doing nearly every aspect of production, at the exception of major sewing work, which they hope to have employees assist in the coming months.
According to CEO Aaron Sakaria, they eventually hope to produce several hundred furniture units per month and also hope to have a team of employees at the Grantsburg site to expand even further.
“It’s super exciting!” said Hewitt, caught between assembling a chair with colleague Ben Seume, one of their go-to assembly skills. “It’s really getting closer.”
Hewitt joined Jensen Anderson and Seume in setting up something of an assembly line to fill existing orders. They have an interesting mix of sofas, from several beige vinyl units to an intriguing purple velvet unit that looks worthy of a hip-hop video.
“Yeah, purple is pretty unique,” Hewitt joked. “It’s kind of a ‘Prince sofa!'”
While there are several unique pieces of furniture, including some sort of feathery, off-white chair, there’s another interesting tan sofa in the back – along a wall that will eventually feature examples of all of their products – but this sofa is unique, in that it has several signatures scribbled on some of the cushions and on the frame.
“It’s the one the designer approved,” Sakaria said. “He must have approved the design.”
The ‘signature sofa’ will not be sold and will instead serve as a place for future employees and workers to take a break between production, and perhaps as a reminder of how each piece is made to specification, with design parameters. which must be respected, each time and on each part.
Northern Furniture Manufacturing is a supplier to several big box stores, as well as small independent sellers, but their contract as a supplier to Urban Outfitters is getting a lot of attention and allowing them to go even further and into even more houses. , and not just in America.
They are currently signing a contract with a Chinese firm to create and sew the “kits” they use to complete a piece of furniture. The kits come in a box of all parts, partially stitched, but ready to slip onto the frame and fill with padding, foam, then apply the special trim, if needed, before heading out to fill an order.
Their first orders for the Grantsburg facility came in last week, and the excitement is hard to contain, even with 50,000 square feet of space.
The staff have big plans for the building, which is a collection of several additions over the years, with a few small rooms, paint booths and loading areas, which when finalized leave plenty of room for every aspect of the building. the production of furniture.
They plan to redo the main entrance and offices, specialize areas for upholstery, framing and carpentry, as well as making sure they have plenty of product, ahead of time, so that one part or material does not delay the whole process. .
It’s an aspect of production that Aaron Sakaria said he all learned with the pandemic, how you can no longer rely on “just in time” ready supplies or materials, because it was too unpredictable with global shortages. and shipping delays.
He noted that they just ordered some stuffing materials, so they’re going sufficient supply until the end of the year.
“Everything falls into place,” Hewitt said on his tour as they worked on completing a sofa frame, with Jensen Anderson using a template created by the establishment’s former owner Roger Norlander, who helped lead this team through the huge complex.
“We couldn’t do it without Roger,” Blake said, noting that he not only maintained the facility for several years, but helped them take full advantage of the space. “It’s easy to get lost here.”
As the first canapes are packed and ready to ship, Jensen uses a forklift to move the boxes, followed by his friendly assistant, Kuna, who is a friendly former therapy dog who now has a new task, beyond simply welcoming visitors to the sprawling Northern Furniture complex.
“Kuna seems to like being in the lead now!” Jensen joked, as Kuna leaned in beside him, seeming to enjoy being part of Team North.