Success in the window coverings industry has always been in the hands of the people who work it. The individuals who take risks or seize opportunities shape the industry and continually set the bar of achievement for others.
It has long been a goal of Draperies & Window Coverings to recognize and call attention to the people whose efforts make custom window coverings and interior fashions the exciting, creative and enriching profession that it is. These men and women lead by example, and the industry is better because of what they have shown us.
Over the years, some individuals just stand out. These industry leaders’ personalities and business styles are as divergent as the individuals themselves, but they do have something in common: Although they are well known, they have never been formally recognized industry wide.
With this issue, we aim to change that. Draperies & Window Coverings inaugurates what will become an annual event: the induction of deserving persons into the D&WC Industry Hall of Fame. Our purpose is to pay tribute to their ideas, dedication and vision.
Deciding on our first inductees has proven to be the biggest challenge. Certainly not because of a lack of candidates, but because of a nearly overwhelming cadre of individuals deserving recognition and we didn’t want to short shrift anyone. All the better. In the years to come, as the rank and file of the D&WC Hall of Fame grows, we can look forward to highlighting the work and lives of the people who make the industry.
late Chairman of Hunter Douglas Inc.
Jerry Fuchs, who led Hunter Douglas Inc. for 13 years, invigorated the company’s sales and bolstered its market position. With his untimely death in 1998 at the age of 57, the industry lost a giant. In 1985, Fuchs ushered in the next generation of window fashions with the introduction of Duette®, the world’s first honeycomb shade and the most significant new window coverings product in decades.
Fuchs’s emphasis on innovation resulted in a steady stream of successful new window fashions products including new designs, styles, colors, applications and hardware systems that served changing consumer tastes. He supported strong and consistent brand development under the Hunter Douglas banner. While creating greater recognition for Hunter Douglas, Fuchs retained the entrepreneurial spirit that was crucial to the company’s growth and success.
Fuchs also strengthened and expanded the Hunter Douglas network of independent and company-owned fabricators, which greatly improved market penetration and helped catapult Hunter Douglas into the leading industry position it occupies today.
Not only did Hunter Douglas sales and market share soar under his tenure, but Fuchs helped elevate the industry as a whole. He raised the bar on product quality, functionality and style and dramatically increased the choices available in the marketplace. Perhaps most importantly, he helped change consumer perceptions of custom blinds and shades from functional only to both fashionable and functional.
Personal Reflections on Jerry Fuchs
President and CEO of Hunter Douglas Inc
Jerry was a charismatic leader and visionary with extraordinary drive and tenacity. He not only catapulted Hunter Douglas to its industry-leading position, but transformed and stimulated the entire home décor market as well. He laid the foundation for much of our success today and his legacy will be profound and long enduring.
When Jerry came to Hunter Douglas from Beatrice Foods in 1981, the company, which had first introduced aluminum Venetian blinds to the world in the 1940s, was still solely an aluminum blind supplier, overshadowed by other much larger and more successful industry companies. Under Jerry’s leadership, the company began rapidly expanding the number of products from which consumers could choose. Then, in 1985, Hunter Douglas purchased the rights and technology to what became Duette honeycomb shades, and our industry would never be the same.
I was hired by Jerry in 1986 as the first president of the Hunter Douglas Window Fashions Division based in Broomfield, CO, to manufacture and market the new Duette honeycomb shade. With Jerry’s strong encouragement and support, our division rapidly expanded the Duette offerings and developed and launched additional revolutionary new products. Silhouette® window shadings, which rivals Duette in its market success, was introduced in 1991, followed by Vignette® modern Roman shades in 1994 and Luminette® privacy sheers in 1997.
I had the distinct privilege of working with Jerry for more than a decade. He inspired me with his boldness in addressing challenges and his aggressiveness in pursuing opportunities for Hunter Douglas. He also passionately believed in giving back to the community and was a generous supporter of many charities, including the Tomorrows Children’s Fund at Hackensack University Medical Center in Hackensack, NJ, and Minority Athletes Networking (MAN etc., Inc.), a youth mentoring organization in Paterson, NJ, where we have established a scholarship in his name.
founder, Lafayette Interior Fashions
When you walk into Lafayette Interior Fashions, you see photographs, awards, memorabilia and a bronze representation of Joe Morgan Sr., the company’s founder. There are offices full of discussions and laughter, as people challenge themselves and their peers to complete projects while performing the dance of daily business.
Lafayette Interior Fashions has never been considered “just a place to work” or “a way to make a living.” It is an extended family with heart and personality all its own as Morgan’s grandchildren work alongside their parents—a direct result of Joe Morgan Sr.’s legacy.
Joe Morgan Sr. found his start in the window coverings, industry in 1941. A former schoolteacher in Missouri, he left for Chicago, IL, to work as a sales representative for Lorentzen Hardware until World War II. After returning home, Joe worked for an independent Venetian blind fabricator in Chicago. During that time, he formed a relationship with the owner of Lafayette Venetian Blind, a small retail store, in Lafayette, IN. In 1950, he purchased a partnership in Lafayette Venetian Blind and converted it into a wholesale business.
Morgan followed several basic principles to make his business profitable. “Dad believed in selling, making and delivering top quality product,” explains Dennis Morgan, Joe’s eldest son. “In the early days of the company, Dad would sell the product on Monday and Tuesday, make it on Wednesday and Thursday, deliver on Friday and invoice on the weekend. He believed in quick order turnaround.” In fact, the philosophy of quick delivery on high quality products is still the mission that drives the company today.
In 1953, Joe bought out his partner and established a relationship with Hunter Douglas. Throughout the rest of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, Lafayette Venetian Blind continued to grow by adding new products, services and customers. The 1980s proved to be a period of particular growth for the window treatment industry. Lafayette product offerings expanded to include vertical blinds, pleated shades and cellular shades. In 1987, LVB opened the first regional office and introduced a custom drapery line, Select Masterpieces™. Business was booming and Lafayette Venetian Blind was growing.
When Joe Morgan Sr. reached retirement age, he still walked to the office as much as possible. “He would take more vacations, but he always would come back,” explained Dennis. Joe Nash, grandson of Joe Sr., remembers how his grandfather would answer customer service calls when the agents were too busy.
Sadly, as the 1980s came to a close, Joe Sr. passed away. Joe Morgan left more than a thriving business; he left a legacy. “Dad would always tell us to forget about the word ‘can’t’ because it doesn’t exist. ‘Can’t’ is a coward too lazy to work,” says Dennis of his father. After the death of Joe Morgan Sr. his sons, Dennis and Joe, and daughter, Toni, assumed the management role in the company and built on their father’s legacy through growth, expansion and the basic philosophy of taking care of the customer first.
Throughout the 1990s, two more regional offices were opened and a new production facility was completed. In keeping with the growth and change of the company, the new trade name of Lafayette Interior Fashions was added to encompass the wide product-offering base. Still, Joe Morgan’s philosophies live and thrive throughout LVB. The legacy continues.