La-Z-Boy Headquarters Located in Monroe, Michigan
La-Z-Boy originated in a love of carpentry shared by two cousins, Edward Knabusch and Edwin Shoemaker, both of Monroe, Michigan. In the early 1920s, Knabusch was a carpenter at the Weis Manufacturing Company and spent his evenings repairing furniture as well as building novelty and custom furniture in a workshop set up in the family garage. Despite the fact that Shoemaker was being groomed by his father to take over the family farm, he was far more interested in carpentry and spent his free time in his cousin’s new workshop.
In 1925, Knabusch’s hobby became a full-time business when he left Weis Manufacturing to start his own business. His first project was to invent a new bandsaw guide. Because of his engineering aptitude, Shoemaker was hired by Knabusch and together they completed the project. Afterward, business increased significantly, spurring Knabusch to purchase new equipment. By March 1927 the business had expanded far beyond any expectations shared by the two cousins, and they decided to form a partnership under the name Kna-Shoe Manufacturing Company. Meanwhile, business continued to expand and the partners soon outgrew Knabusch’s family garage. By the end of 1927, with the financial support of friends and family, a new factory was completed north of Monroe. Built in the middle of a cornfield that fronted a cow path, the site led many to say the two men were foolish to establish their factory so far from the city. However, their gamble paid off as rumors of a state highway became reality soon after; the old cow path became M-24 (Telegraph Road), a major north-south Michigan artery.
As a rule, the partners preferred to develop new designs rather than copying the products of other companies. One such design was the Gossiper, which was a telephone stand with a built-in seat. Although the Gossiper was an immediate success, a large manufacturer soon copied the design and sold it more cheaply than Knabusch and Shoemaker. Other products would follow, but none were as successful as the simple wood-slat porch chair that reclined to follow the body’s contour, whether sitting up or leaning back. Believing they had a winner, the two men sought to market the new chair. However, when Arthur Richardson, a buyer for the Lion Store, suggested that they upholster the new chair for year-round use indoors, they changed their plans. Lacking any upholstery knowledge, the partners called upon George Welker to assist in upholstery decisions.
To protect their new invention the men incorporated in 1929 as the Floral City Furniture Company, abandoning the Kna-Shoe name because people mistook the company for a shoe manufacturer. Through friends and family, the men raised $10,000 to secure the necessary patents and began production. The men attended their first furniture show in May 1929 and returned with more orders than they could fill.
As their innovative recliner became increasingly popular, the need for a name became apparent. The partners held a public contest to name the recliner, thus finding a name and generating further interest in their product simultaneously. In November 1930, the winning name, La-Z-Boy, was trademarked, and the patent for the new mechanism was issued in January 1931. Soon thereafter, the partners licensed the right to manufacture the chair to existing companies. Floral City manufactured the metal recliner mechanism and retained the rights to manufacture and sell the chair in Monroe County. At the same time, Floral City Furniture returned to repairing furniture and manufacturing novelty/custom furniture.
An Emphasis on Retail Sales
Flourishing during the depths of the Great Depression, the men redoubled their efforts in retail sales. In 1933 the first floor of their factory was converted into a showroom. To celebrate the opening of the showroom, a circus tent was set up in front of the store to display furniture. Soon, the “Furniture Shows” were drawing people from Detroit and Toledo. With Edward Knabusch’s keen marketing sense, the company’s flamboyant shows helped to assuage the anxiety of a people caught in the grips of a horrible Depression. While other companies frantically worked for quick sales, Floral City provided entertainment in addition to their high-quality products. Knabusch and Shoemaker were able to sell their wares in ever-increasing numbers, while thousands of other businesses faltered and failed. Business was so successful that in 1935 the partners opened a new showroom.
During WWII, La-Z-Boy rented out garage space to produce seats for tanks, torpedo boats, turret guns, and armored cars.
The first recliner with a built-in footrest debuted in the 1950s, and the recliner-rocker took the industry by storm in the 1960s.
The 1990s saw recliners go gadget-crazy with options such as massage units, coolers and telephone jacks. It was a decade that also saw La-Z-Boy greatly expand its upholstered furniture assortment and its case goods business.
Started in Monroe, the La-Z-Boy Company is still headquartered there. It has come a long way.
Today, La-Z-Boy has 6300 employees nationwide, spanning its headquarters in Michigan, 5 manufacturing plants, six U.S. distribution centers, and 142 corporate-owned La.Z-Boy Furniture Galleries stores. Two hundred more store locations are dealer-owned.
Nearly all our furniture is built in the U.S.A. from domestic and imported materials. However, to bring the comfort of La-Z-Boy to homes around the world, we also serve markets around the globe. We currently sell La-Z-Boy product in Asia, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
1928: Cousins Edward Knabusch and Edwin Shoemaker, (“the two Eds”) create the first folding wood-slat porch recliner.
1929: The porch recliner is upholstered, allowing for indoor, year-round use; the La-Z-Boy name is chosen.
1931: The patent for La-Z-Boy is issued, and the partners license the right to manufacture the chair to existing companies.
1941: La-Z-Boy incorporates; and stops chair production to create plane parts for World War II.
1947: Production of recliners resumes; and matching ottomans are introduced.
1952: The first La-Z-Boy recliner with built-in footrest is introduced.
1960: La-Z-Boy begins making rocker recliners; and opens its first factory outside Michigan in Mississippi.
1970: The company offers recliners with electric controls.
1972: The company goes public; 600 people buy shares in over-the-counter trading.
1975: The company introduces recliners that move away from walls.
1986: The company introduces power recliners and power-assisted lifts.
1987: La-Z-Boy begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
1989: The company opens its first La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery.
1993: The company’s new line of recliners offers massage and heat; another line targets customers with smaller body types.
1999: The company offers recliners with built-in beverage coolers, phones, caller ID, and motorized-massage options.
2000: La-Z-Boy and Microsoft team up to offer the Explorer E-cliner, a recliner with built-in WebTV Internet access and tools.
2001: The company introduces chairs for children.
Jon Chavez, “Monroe-Based Furniture Maker La-Z-Boy hosts party to honor 90th anniversary“, Toledo Blade, March 25, 2017.
“La-Z-Boy Turns 90”, Detroit News, March 31, 2017.
John D. Dingell, “In Honor of the 75th Anniversary of La-Z-Boy”, Congressional Record, July 29, 2002.
Larry Thomas, “La-Z-Boy celebrating 75th anniversary“, Furniture Today, August 5, 2002
La-Z-Boy Incorporated Company History, International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 50. St. James Press, 2003.