DCI Is A Quintessential American Business Success Story

In Blog by Morgan Dix

Furniture and philosophy might seem like strange bedfellows. But in the case of DCI founder Henry Kober, these two great traditions go hand in hand.

A true American business success story, DCI had an extremely humble beginning.

Back in 1970, Henry had just finished up his doctoral coursework at NYU, one of the top schools for Philosophy in the world.

It was time to write his dissertation and raise a family.

The Great North Woods

small business success storyHenry needed space to write and he wanted to get out of the busy city. Like so many Americans before him, he sought a simpler life, one rooted in the wild, rugged, and beautiful American landscape.

So Henry and his wife moved to a modest farmstead nestled in the north country of New Hampshire in the White Mountains.

It was soon obvious that Henry needed a livelihood to support his family while he finished his thesis.

But there weren’t a lot of job opportunities in the rural North Country. So Henry started working with his hands, taking up the craft of woodworking.

From Passion to Business

the humble roots of a business success storyWorking out of the barn on his farmstead, he started to fashion furniture by hand for a few people.

They liked it.

Gradually, Henry started to make furniture for sale to retail stores. Pretty soon, what started as a passion grew into a bona fide business.

By 1976, he had two sons. And instead of devoting his time to philosophy, Henry expanded his furniture craft operations from his hundred-year-old barn to the old Saranac Glove factory in Littleton, NH.

Needless to say, Henry never finished that philosophy dissertation.

From Local to Global

DCI Lisbon FactoryAs a modest operation, the business grew slowly over the next seven years. And then, in 1983, the company officially incorporated as Design Contempo and purchased a 150,000 sq.ft facility—which included 8 dry kilns—in Lisbon, NH.

The company started growing quickly at this point and launched into the contract furniture business by earning a U.S. Government military contract to supply 15,000 bunk beds worldwide.

The following year, based on DCI’s outstanding performance, the company won the Single Award Contract for bunkable beds, building and installing more than 300,000 beds for the government over the next 15 years.

But another big shift was in store for DCI.

Owning The Supply Chain

DCI Sawmill South Royalton VTIn 1987, the company purchased a state-of-the-art hardwood sawmill in South Royalton, Vermont. Here, FSC-Chain of Custody certified hardwoods from state regulated forests are processed into lumber for furniture production.

Specifically, Chain-of-Custody certification allows us to assure our customers that our lumber comes from certified forests and other responsible sources.

And it also guarantees a high level of social and environmental responsibility throughout our manufacturing process. (You can learn more about the benefits of FSC certification here.)

The facility is 20,000 square feet located on 30 acres.

The addition of the sawmill provided DCI with a competitive advantage because it put us in control of our entire supply chain.

All of the timber for the hardwood furniture came from VT and NH. It was a relatively short trip from the northern forests to the South Royalton sawmill and then on to the Lisbon factory.

At the same time, integrating the sawmill pushed DCI into the vanguard of environmental sustainability. Unlike other companies in the residence hall and military markets, DCI could ensure the sustainable pedigree of its furniture from forest to floor.

What does that mean? In short, no more middle men. That allowed DCI to keep prices competitive for a premium hardwood product. It also ensured that all our furniture was locally sourced, crafted, and carbon-friendly.

It’s All In The Family

In keeping with the DCI’s traditional American values, Henry’s sons, David and Amos, joined the organization in 1993 and 1997 making DCI a truly family-run and family-owned business.

Around the same time, in 1997, after a sustained period of growth, DCI needed to expand yet again.

To keep pace with the growing demand for student and military housing furniture in the Southeast United States, DCI established a regional factory in Lumberton, North Carolina.

David Kober soon took over as head of operations in the Southeast.

The Lumberton operation significantly enhanced DCI’s production capacity. The facility includes 85,000 square feet of production space for milling, finishing, assembly, and warehousing on 17 acres of land.

Nearly a decade later, DCI established a fourth arm of the business on the West Coast in San Diego, California where Amos Kober assumed responsibility as head of operations.

Again, this expansion was the result of increasing demand.

For example, in 2015 DCI was awarded a contract from the University of California Office of the President. This made DCI the furniture provider of choice for residence halls within the UC System.

The University of California educates over 250,000 students each year across ten campuses. A large number of those students take advantage of student housing, and we service many of those residence halls.

Consequently, our San Diego facility is an essential anchor for our West Coast business with 10,000 square feet that we use for assembly, warehousing, and a factory showroom.

DCI Today

The DCI team now includes more than 200 people in 5 states.

We work with our partners on projects ranging in size from a couple sets of furniture for a small school to multimillion-dollar military housing contracts worldwide.

While we continually evolve as a company to stay at the front of market demands, we maintain the traditional values that Henry Kober built the company on: responsibly made sustainable products and inspired service fueled by long-term and close customer relationships.