The story of Henkel Harris, one of America’s premier furniture manufacturers, started in May 1946, when Carroll and Mary Henkel formed a partnership with longtime friend John Harris to produce furniture in the basement of the Henkel’s family home, an auspicious start indeed.
The first product to come out of this association was a reproduction corner cabinet which had to be sawed in half, as it became evident that, after the assembly of the piece, it would not fit through the door of the basement, a slight oversight, very possibly due to the enthusiasm of the trio. After this slight fiasco, they decided to purchase and move into an adjacent warehouse, and the company expanded rapidly as its reputation for fine quality furniture production started spreading far and wide.
In 1964, Carroll Henkel decided that the facility had outgrown the company’s needs and personally designed a new manufacturing facility to suit new specifications, a wise choice indeed, as Henkel Harris continued on its upward successful trajectory. Tragically, Carroll Henkel succumbed to cancer and passed away in 1969 after battling the terrible disease for two years. Mary Henkel thus was thrust into the position of sole proprietor of Henkel Harris, as partner John Harris had been previously bought out.
In those times, the manufacturing world was considered as the sole realm of men, and Mary Henkel was not considered to be suitable to lead the company onward, although she had studied at the Parsons School of Interior Design and the Winchester Business School. Strongly persuaded to exit the business, the strong willed Mary Henkel adamantly refused all buyout advances and decided to pursue the legacy that her deceased husband had trail blazed for herself and her family. The familiar saying that behind every strong man stands a strong woman rings true indeed.
Mary Henkel’s success transcended her own company, as she received the honor of being the first woman to be elected to the Board of Directors of the previous Southern Furniture Manufacturers Association, now known as the AFMA. She furthermore was famously inducted into the Furniture Hall of Fame in 1996, a truly outstanding achievement. In 1982, Mary Henkel resigned as President of Henkel Harris in favor of her son William Henkel, but remained Chairman of the Board.
The Legacy Collection was introduced some years later to commemorate the enduring legacies of both Carroll and Mary Henkel to critical acclaim, with only the finest woods used and exquisite craftsmanship exhibited throughout the collection, all the while retaining sentimental significance.
The Nancy Saunders White Chest was added to the collection in 2007 as a tribute to breast cancer survivor Mary Sanders Whitt, who was married to Henkel Harris Executive Vice President Cole Whitt. The retail value of the mahogany chest was a breathtaking $12,000, and part of the proceeds is donated to the Duke Cancer Research Center. Today, the name of Henkel Harris is still synonymous with ravishing elegance, adorning homes and offices alike with its lines of bedroom and dining room furniture, along with its executive line of furniture. The legacies of Carroll and Mary Henkel live on through the next generations of Henkels.