Bernhardt Furniture Company was founded in 1889 in the small town of Lenoir, located in the foothills of Western North Carolina by John Mathias Bernhardt. It is one of the largest family owned and operated marketers of fine wood and upholstered furniture in the United States. Committed to high business standards and the principles of fine craftsmanship, the Bernhardt family has led this American enterprise to its current ranking among the top U.S. furniture companies in annual sales worldwide.
John was destined for adventures and left Lenoir as a young man and landed in territory that would later become the state of Oregon. There, he found a job as a government surveyor assisting settlers in the wild frontier. After three years he returned to Lenoir and found work as a logger and timber cutter, though a hard way to make a living his diligence paid off, as he became supervisor at the Caldwell Land & Lumber Company. John’s vision was apparent then as he was able to convince his company to build the first railroad into the mountains, so that it would be easier to harvest and transport the abundant timber in the area.
His entrepreneurial spirit took hold and he began starting his own companies. First, he started his own sawmill and began buying timber. Then in 1889 he organized a company to manufacture furniture out of the native white oak. Bernhardt's vision ultimately led him to connect with distributors and merchants in large cities such as Chicago and New York City in order to supply sturdy oak bedroom furniture to people who lived as far away as the Rocky Mountains. This eager North Carolina entrepreneur began making an impression on the urban businessmen who would ultimately come to know his reliability and integrity.
Bernhardt’s grasp of possibilities outside his locality and his willingness to work hard enabled his young company to survive and grow. As Bernhardt honed the skills of its craftsmen, the company earned a reputation for making high-quality furniture that was both durable and beautiful. Known for intricate oak-grain finishes, Bernhardt sold thousands of sturdy chests and tables costing less than $4 each. Cabinets and cases were stacked like bricks and loaded into freight cars for transport to cities across America.