Business Furniture was incorporated in 1948 by Benjamin Klausner and his friend Morris Schlein. Each with an investment of $10,000, they founded what has become one of the largest office furniture and services companies in the United States.
Ben worked in the accounting department for the Brenner Desk Company and Morris was one of their top sales people. They determined it was time to strike out on their own, thus, Business Furniture Inc. was formed. Our company’s first showroom and office was located at 542 North Avenue in Elizabeth, planting roots in the city that have lasted for over 45 years. Ben and Morris’ first account were The Beneficial Finance Corporation and then soon added Westinghouse Corporation and Bendix Corporation, an impressive list, even today!
The post-World War II baby boom was underway and quickly populated the schools. Classrooms were filling as quickly as they could be built. Ben and Morris saw a business opportunity. Business Furniture entered into the school furniture business and eventually became one of the largest dealers of this type in the state. Our company was a dealer for the Griggs Equipment Company, a firm specializing in molded plywood and tubular steel classroom furniture. Prior to this, most school furniture was made of solid wood; very heavy and expensive. Business Furniture took the leading edge in the introduction of new, cost effective furniture technologies to its clients. Over the years we have taken new concepts and technologies to our clients to address a myriad of problems brought on by the rapid growth in the American workplace; this has become the hallmark of Business Furniture.
In 1957, Morris Schlein passed away. Ben asked his son-in-law, Howard Roth, to join the company and assist in the management of the firm. Howard had been a comptroller for the Sears, Roebuck and Company. His specialty was finance. Upon the death of Ben Klausner in 1968, Howard became President of the company and asked his brother-in-law, Paul Gold, to join Business Furniture. Paul was attending dental school in Memphis, Tennessee. He accepted the offer and moved his family to New Jersey. Paul was to become very successful in sales.
During the 1960’s and early 70’s the office environment went through a major revolution. The word processor, terminals and computers were taking hold and placing new demands upon office facilities. The supplying of office furniture was also changing, and Herman Miller introduced the first cubicle system, Action Office. To help our clients address the need to plan and install this new systems furniture product, Paul and Howard established Euthenics Planning and Design. Andy Merizio was hired as the first bfi Interior Design Professional and he has worked for and with us ever since!
The company’s first major sale with systems furniture was secured by Paul; the million-dollar project with the Dames & Moore Company in Cranford, New Jersey. It was one of Herman Miller’s first million-dollar projects!
The 1970’s and 80’s also saw significant growth in the company’s sales, our sales force, our design department and administrative staff. In 1980, Business Furniture and Herman Miller established the systems furniture contract with the City of New York. That contract has been the vehicle by which tens of millions of dollars of Herman Miller products have been delivered and installed for the City of New York.
The decade of the ‘80s was very busy for bfi! The New York office on 5th Avenue was opened, and with the arrival of a new Sales Manager in New Jersey, Dan Morley, Business Furniture opened branch offices in the Princeton and Parsippany markets. In late 1988, Howard became Chairman, Paul the President and Dan the Executive Vice President for both NY and NJ.
In August of 1992, bfi announced the appointment of Dan Morley as the President of the company and bfi immediately bought a small Herman Miller Dealer on Long Island, Specmark. That dealership was incorporated into the bfi New York office and we still employ several employees that came with that purchase.
In 1996, bfi purchased Brenner Business Interiors (which was where our forefathers worked before starting bfi in 1948!). bfi closed the Newark office and merged all of their talented employees into our respective offices in New York, Parsippany, Princeton and Elizabeth. To this day we still have at least seven of those Brenner employees that joined us as part of that merger.
In 2001, Paul, Dan and our then CFO, John Trotter, bought out the Roth Family. John retired shortly after the recession in 2011 after assisting bfi weather the storm of the recession of 2007 - 2010.
The next several years look to be very exciting at bfi. The diversified manner in which the company is structured to serve NY and NJ commercial clients, government/public work, healthcare institutions and the educational marketplace has the company positioned well for the immediate and long term growth. Since January 2014, bfi has added several new Sales Professionals in both the NJ and NY offices to further spread our marketing efforts and expand our client base.