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Made in Michigan: The furniture legacy | News

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Made in Michigan: The furniture legacy

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM) - If you've sat in a seat - at home, work, school or the ballpark, chances are that seat was made in Grand Rapids.  We're not called the Furniture City for nothing.  

"The best craftspeople in the world still do reside in Grand Rapids," says John Van Zee of Kindel Furniture.

One of the people Van Zee is referring to is Bill Bloemendall, who has been carvig furniture for Kindel for nearly three decades.

"Made in Grand Rapids the last of its kind," says Bloemendall.

Kindel is the last local survivor in Grand Rapids' long tradition of turning wood into furniture.

"This is the image of the city of Grand Rapids -- Detroit made cars, Hollywood made movies, and Grand Rapids made furniture," says Chris Carron of the Grand Rapids Public Museum. "For many decades, the identity of this city was tied to the things that it made."

Grand Rapids' office furniture factory jobs exploded with the growth of the white collar workplace - and shrunk as those office jobs shrunk.

Steelcase reduced its employment by 50% while it diversified into medical and educational furniture

None of the current furniture makers are unionized - but a historic furniture workers strike 100 years ago led to higher wages and shorter work weeks.

The Spirit of Solidarity Monument across from the Grand Rapids Public Museum honors the city's early involvement in the labor movement.

Furniture making is nowhere near as big in Grand Rapids as it once was, but it will always play a pivotal role.

"I almost take it as a patriotic thing because it's all made right here in America," says Bloemendall. "It's something to be proud of."

The city that furniture made is the subject of a permanent exhibit at the Grand Rapids Public Museum.