Lakeshore, Manufacturing, and Small Business & Startups

Furniture exec buys company

March 16, 2015
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Furniture exec buys company
Wayne Baxter. Courtesy Flairwood Industries

A veteran of the office furniture industry has bought a furniture maker.

Wayne Baxter, an experienced leader in office furnishings and product marketing, has purchased Flairwood Industries in Norton Shores.

The company, founded in 1976, is a supplier of cabinets and carts for the education, health care and contract furniture markets.

Flairwood said the purchase was completed on March 13, and Baxter is now Flairwood’s president and majority owner.

In addition to Baxter, Flairwood’s ownership team includes his wife, Mary, as well as Joel Pyper and his wife, Joy.

Pyper is owner and president of Standard Lifters, a tool and die component company in Grand Rapids.

Expansion expected

Baxter hopes to build on the operational excellence Flairwood is known for to expand the company’s reputation and sales in all of the vertical markets where it competes.

Flairwood’s manufacturing and front-office facility is 50,000 square feet, which provides room for significant growth, Baxter said.

It employs 30 people, many of them with decades of service at the company.

Furniture-industry vet

Baxter has more than 20 years of experience in product marketing and product development, first with Nuvar Manufacturing, followed by Attwood Corporation, which was a subsidiary of Steelcase at the time, and a 16-year tenure with Herman Miller, which concluded last December, according to linkedin.com

At Herman Miller, Baxter played key roles in the product marketing of both the Aeron chair and the product launch of the Mirra chair, two of the company’s most successful products.

Most recently, Baxter led the development and expansion of Herman Miller’s Thrive ergonomic and technology portfolio. His team developed and launched multiple products, acquired another company and experienced sales and margin growth.

“I’ve had an incredible run with a number of excellent companies, but I’ve long had the urge to buy and operate my own business,” Baxter said.

He said the opportunity to purchase Flairwood was particularly enticing, because it will allow him to remain in West Michigan.

Previous owners

Flairwood will celebrate its 40th year in business next year.

Greg Lonnee and Terry Hill founded the business in 1976, and Paul Remondino purchased majority shares of Flairwood in 1988.

Despite selling their interests in the company, all three of the previous owners have agreed to stay on as employees or contract consultants to Baxter.

“I’m grateful to have the invaluable experience and wisdom of Paul, Greg and Terry to draw upon as I make this transition,” Baxter said.

He said he’s “thrilled to be given the chance to be a steward of their legacy.”

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