Hekman Furniture Company
Three sons of Dutch immigrants, Henry, Jelle, and John Hekman started the Hekman Furniture Co. along with experienced engineer and close friend James Boonstra in 1922. Henry served as company president from the time of its founding until he was succeeded by his brother Jelle in 1952. In 1936 Henry was elected president of the National Association of Furniture Manufacturers. Jelle, in turn, served as president of Hekman from 1952 until 1960. Adrian Vanden Bout was elected president in 1960, and served until succeeded by Harold Rodenhouse in 1974. Dan Henslee became president in 1989.
William Halstrick designed the company’s first line of 30 tables. John F. Samuelson also served for a time as one of Hekman’s designers. In 1970, Grand Rapids native Raymond K. Sobota designed the company’s English Yewwood Collection, which became one of its most successful lines.
Hekman’s first introduction was a line of 30 occasional tables. From there, the line grew to include occasional pieces for the living room, library, and hall. During World War II the factory was converted for production of glider bottoms and ammunition boxes. In 1960, pieces were offered in Neo-classical, Italian Provincial, French Provincial, and Danish Modern styles. Besides Sobota’s “English Yewwood Collection,” the company produced other wood occasional lines in the 1970s, including the English Provincial “Charing Cross” collection, the sleek-lined, Mapa burl-veneered “Wind Row” collection, a series of entertainment centers, and the faux bamboo “Bambu Regency” collection.
During the early 1980s Hekman also began marketing desks and computer cabinets for home offices. At about that same time Hekman furnished several large hotels, including the Amway Grand Plaza in Grand Rapids, and the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago.
In 1991 Hekman introduced a line of reproductions of furniture owned by English novelist Charles Dickens, including a sloped mahogany desk and a cain seat smoker’s bow chair. Hekman faithfully reproduced impressions made on the original desk by Charles Dickens, who nervously tapped his ring while he was writing.