SPARKS, Nev. (KOLO) -- Have you ever wanted the perfect chair, your dream chair, the exact color you want, the exact size and shape, and material you want?
Via Seating Executive Vice President, Nora Fenlon, showing the Oslo Executive Chair with special features including a ratchet back function and adjustable head rest function
A Sparks business can deliver on most any of these wishes and desires. It started with one man named Thomas Sorensen. He moved to the United States from Denmark when he turned 18-years-old.
"Very brilliant guy. Left brain right brain. Very creative. Very methodical at the same time," said Via Seating Executive Vice President, Nora Fenlon.
He noticed many white collar workers developing back problems. "This is the late 80's when there were a lot of private offices, but no ergonomics in the chairs that people were sitting in. Computers were starting to come into play along with monitors and keyboards, but executive chairs weren't changing," Nora said.
Via Seating was born. Thomas had a revolutionary idea. Customize the exact chair his buyers would want. "It's millions of different configurations on top of the fact you can have different arms, different arm caps, different bases, castors, seat backs heights, seat size, but then you layer in the fabrics. The fabric options are unlimited basically," said Via Seating President and CEO, Chas Hepler.
Thomas also wanted the chairs made in 48 hours to quickly ship them to his customers. For this reason he looked outside his home in Hawaii for a business location.
"He looked at the western seaboard. A close proximity to his business interests in Hawaii and basically picked Reno because of no tax on inventory because of its close proximity to main markets on the west coast," said Nora.
Via Seating called 1480 Kleppe Lane in Sparks home in 1987. Flooding forced it to move to its current location at 205 Vista Boulevard in Sparks in 1998.
It takes the entire crew of 120 people working as many 58 hour weeks to keep up with demand in the 100,000 square foot warehouse.
Many of the chairs are on display in the Company's showroom.
"This is a swapper," Chas said sitting on a soft bench with no back in place. "It's an active chair basically and it's about health and wellness so you're actually sitting."
He says it's designed to increase circulation and improve posture.
"It's super comfortable. It has three ways of movement. It's bouncing side-to-side and forward tilt. So you can have good posture and engage your core," Chas said.
Then Chas walked across the showroom floor and sat in a large chair called the Astro. "You can both rock and sway or just sit there and relax and you could be a gamer in this chair," he said.
Nora says the Oslo Executive Chair is a top seller. "Taking that seat of power and giving it all the bells and whistles of a task chair. He (Thomas) gave it things like ratchet back function, like adjustable head rest function," she said.
Each chair must survive strenuous quality control tests to make it to this showroom floor.
"It differentiates a commercial chair with a retail chair you'd find at an Office Max or something. This is the quality that our customers demand in the commercial market," said Chas said.
A machine will simulate a 400 pound person leaning back in this chair over 12 years of use.
The test will continue 24-hours a day for a week to accomplish this task.
The chair will be available for purchase if it survives its quality control checks.
The custom chair making process in Via Seating's warehouse often begins with the cow hide.
A worker looks at it closely and places small stickers all over the top. "That's what those little tabs are. Bee stings or a rub up against the fabric," Chas said.
A machine scans and logs all the imperfections in a computer to maximize each cut and to remove the most usable pieces of leather from each hide.
The pieces of leather are brought to a sewing station where they are pieced together in preparation to be fit on chairs. A team of 16 sewers work 50 hours a week to keep up with demand, but more sewers are needed.
"The key skill is sewing. Sewing is kind of a lost art," Chas said. "There's not as many sewers as their used to be."
Most of these jobs have moved over seas. The sewers have a stock of most any color of thread you can image for a quick custom turnaround. The basic materials they work with are leather, vinyl, and woven fabrics. "The gamut. It's unlimited," Chas said.
The leader fabric is then taken to one of four assembly lines. Each is designed to assemble a particular kind of chair including multi-purpose chairs, task chairs for work, executive chars for managers, and finally lounge seating for relaxation and comfort.
Each line is filled with workers at stations designed to systematically assemble the chairs.
A barrage of sounds from electronic tools including screws and staple guns comes from each line.
First the base is pieced together then the back and then the chair is covered in protective materials and boxed for shipment
"The chair is going to get order processed on Monday and we'll ship it by Thursday so how ever long it takes to get from our dock to your door," said Chas.
Via seating offers a 12 year manufacturers warranty. Managers say it's the strongest in the industry.
Via Seating is also hiring 40 to 50 people over the next few weeks and months to add a new swing shift. It's expected to launch December 1st and will include incentives for working evenings.