Made in Chicagoland: Richardson Seating

November 3, 2011 4:57:50 AM PDT
Richardson Seating Corporation is a local manufacturer of commercial furniture, mostly for restaurants and bars.

While the name "Richardson" may not ring a bell, if you've ever eaten at Lou Malnati's, had a drink at Lottie's Pub, or visited the Vic Theatre, you've probably gotten off your feet onto a Richardson seat!

They're bright, colorful, fun and comfortable. From custom barstools to retro diner furniture, Richardson Seating manufactures more than 200,000 items a year, all from their factory on Chicago's

Near West Side. The family-owned business has been providing places to perch your posterior for several generations!

"My grandpa had a different chair company he started before this, that he began after WWII; in '73 he decided to retire, by '75 he got bored, so he decided to start another company with my father, and this one he named Richardson Seating, which was his name," said Ira Lichtenstein, vice president.

Richardson's specializes in barstools and chairs for the food service industry -- the majority of their products -- from the wood work to the upholstery, are hand crafted on site. Admittedly, the company is challenged by lower-priced competitors overseas, and the recession just added insult to injury, but through innovative thinking and Internet expansion, this local company is now selling globally.

"We have to be more efficient; we have to learn to get more out of the same people. We have to learn how to cut time from processes; we have to be better - to cut costs where we can without cutting quality," said Lichtenstein.

The first floor is where everything begins. It's the wood shop and assembly area, the largest floor in the factory. Everything is hand crafted and cut to size, so there's no room for error.

The wood is cut, formed, sanded and assembled. One specialized stool is made of three pieces; a drum and top base, and the seat. Corrugated fiber board is secured around each drum to give it structure. The upholstery is cut and sewn to size and secured over the wooden bases. A ribbon of piping gives each piece a seamless look. The seat is filled with cotton and surrounded with foam to give cush to your tush! An air drill secures the seat; gliders are attached to the bottom and, voila, a jewel of a stool!

Only 35 employees handle everything from welding to sewing and design, so there's no sitting down on the job. Simpler pieces can be done in 20 minutes, while more intricate ones could take two hours to complete. Items range in price from $20 to $400, any fanny favorites?

"We did the Grateful Dead Steal Your Face barstool and that was one I worked on for two years because I thought it was really cool to get a purchase order that said Grateful Dead on it," said Lichtenstein.

No butts about it, Richardson Seating is proud to be behind products made in Chicagoland.

The stools that are being donated to ABC7's room makeover are so specialized, only a handful of the Richardson employees can make them. One of the other advantages of local construction, special orders can be done easily and quickly.

Richardson Seating
2545 West Arthington Street
Chicago, IL 60612
(312) 829-4040
richardsonseating.com

***Hoohobbers is one of the businesses ABC7 has features in our "Made in Chicagoland" series. These businesses employ local workers to make products right here in the Chicago area. And the three businesses we're introducing you to are also helping us with a makeover to the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago has been helping families for a century. But there is one room in their center that needs a little TLC. So we thought, "Why not get the help of some local businesses who take pride in making products here in the Chicago area?" We will show you the results of our makeover Friday morning.


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