By Vicki Matranga, Design Programs Coordinator
Organizing Homes, Organizing a Business
Today’s homes need many products to keep track of shoes, clothes, and toys. While shopping for storage supplies, you were probably thinking about how to squeeze your stuff into a space that could use a few more inches of shelving. The organizing business keeps on growing, as we pack our busy lives into tighter spaces, and the business of making organizing products has grown immensely in recent decades. In 1946, when Whitmor began in Brooklyn, New York as a pioneer in the manufacturing of garment bags, it would have been impossible to imagine the variety of items the company would be producing 65 years later. They now make closet racks, soft storage, wire frame storage units, shelving, containers, laundry hampers and garment care products.
Now a fourth generation family-owned operation, Whitmor continues to innovate in a product category it helped create. Considered in the trade as the originator of popular fashion looks in coordinated patterns for vinyl, fabric and corrugated home storage and organizing products, Whitmor expanded its assortment from single items into a full department at major retail stores.
Beginning in 1961, the company was headquartered in Earle, Arkansas for 48 years. Led by Donald Felsenthal, the domestic manufacturer faced many challenges in the changing retail landscape while meeting the needs of discerning consumers and in the 1990s began to transition to overseas sourcing. The company’s greatest challenge was overcoming the devastating 2008 tornado that destroyed its global distribution center. Whitmor remained in the Memphis region and built a new facility across the Mississippi River in Southaven, Mississippi. This location helped grow its employee base and offers convenient customer access and operational efficiency.
4th generation leadership at Whitmor’s warehouse and distribution facility in Southaven, MS. From left, the Felsenthal management: Scott (vice-president), Sandy, president, Peter, CEO and Jimmy (chief information officer).
Now managed by Donald’s three sons and a grandson, Whitmor not only bases its customer service hotline in Southaven, but also employs industrial and graphic designers as well as a photographer, who all add their personal touches to products and service. All products are photographed at the in-house studio for packaging and catalogs, which are created and bound onsite. In addition to high-tech inventory management systems, the warehouse established “green” initiatives such as the use of energy-efficient lighting with motion sensor controls and the conversion from gas to electrical powered lift equipment.
Many of us shop for home storage and organization products with a tape measure or color scheme in hand and sometimes can’t find just the right thing. You can suggest new product ideas by answering a survey or checking into Whitmor’s Inventor’s Corner at http://www.whitmor.com They want to hear your recommendations and help you solve your specific needs. Who knew that a garment bag company would become a one-stop shop for outfitting any room of the house?