Thoughts: The Honderich Furniture Company of Milverton

In 1912, Norman Honderich was inspired after seeing an illustration of a kitchen cabinet in an issue of Ladies Home Journal.

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In 1912, Norman Honderich was inspired after seeing an illustration of a kitchen cabinet in an issue of Ladies Home Journal. He knew that most kitchen cabinets for sale in Canada were made in the United States. He believed that this type of product could easily be made and sold in Canada, so he turned to his father, Christian R. Honderich, who owned a planer mill in Milverton.

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Christian had learned carpentry early on and started working in various jobs. He entered into a partnership with his brother-in-law, Mr. Frederick Weiderhold, and they purchased the Milverton Planer Mill on Main Street in Milverton, which they operated from 1888 to 1909. While in Business together, the couple also operated the first funeral and were the first funeral directors in the village to make their own coffins. They even had their own furniture store. After their partnership ended, Honderich teamed up with August Eydt, with whom he had worked at the planer mill, and the pair kept the mill running.

When Norman brought the idea of ​​making kitchen cabinets to his father, they quickly came to the idea. The planing plant equipment was easily adaptable to kitchen cabinet making, and production began on a small scale. They had no trouble selling the products in a short time; in fact, the cabinets were so successful that Christian decided to build a furniture factory and sell the planing factory. Construction on the factory began in 1912, but the 19,660 square foot factory was not completed until 1913. The first shipment of furniture from the new factory was dispatched in April 1913; this shipment consisted of a number of kitchen cabinets. Before that, only a small number of cabinets had been produced in the planing plant. This new factory was not the first in Canada to enter the cabinet business, but it was the first to manufacture oak roll-front cabinets.

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They named the company HE Furniture Company. Through diligent and efficient management, they were able to advance their kitchen cabinet sales and reached their peak in 1917, the same year they decided to add cedar chests to their line. There was a phenomenal demand for their signature line – “Red Seal” cedar chests. They sold their furniture throughout Perth County and across Canada.

Christian Honderich died in 1923. His obituary showed how involved he was in the business, as he notes that he was “always present in the store among the employees and had a wonderful ability to move everything forward without friction and c It was seldom that discontent was expressed by his men. A year after Christian’s death, tragedy struck, as a fire destroyed most of the factory. Following the fire, August Eydt decided to leave the company. Post-fire production efforts have focused solely on cedar chests as their consistently high product quality and fair prices place them at the top of any cedar chest manufacturer in Canada.

In 1926, the name of the company was changed to Honderich Furniture Company, and Christian’s two sons ran the business. His son Norman was the President and CEO and his other son, William, was the Secretary-Treasurer. One of Norman’s daughters, Elizabeth Honderich, joined the company in 1941. After graduating from Havergal College and the Ontario College of Art, she became a designer in the family business, where she also held the position of sales manager.

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The company has grown several times over the years. By 1933, they had increased their floor space to 56,580 square feet, and in 1938, they added a three-story addition. They specialized in cedar dining furniture and chests, for which they won several design awards, including one for their Canadian Furniture Mart dining buffet in 1964.

In 1967, two years after Norman Honderich’s death, the factory was sold to Fry and Blackhall Ltd. de Wingham, a manufacturer of upholstered furniture. At the time, the Milverton factory employed around 125 men. Electrohome Ltd. bought Honderich Furniture Company and Fry and Blackhall Limited in 1969, and continued to produce furniture from the Milverton factory. In the 1970s and 1980s, Electrohome transitioned to digital consumer products and then to commercial data, video projection and display systems. By the late 1990s and early 2000s, Electrohome had closed all of its factories and dissolved its business.

The Stratford-Perth Archives are open for in-person research by appointment. Telephone and email service remains an option. Please contact us to make an appointment to use the collections or to meet with the archivist to discuss possible donations of archival material. We can be reached at 519-271-0531 ext. 259 or [email protected]

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