Doug Rozenboom, the new president of Jonathan Charles, recently spoke with Home News Now about his vision for the company now that it has had a chance to transition from its previous leadership.
Rozenboom, who also remains president of sister company A.R.T. Furniture, entered the role shortly after previous President Jeff Young announced his retirement last fall.
Here Rozenboom shares some ideas on where he sees opportunity for the company, owned by Markor International Home Furnishings Company, given its rich history of manufacturing European-influenced traditional case goods and upholstery.
Home News Now: What do you see as the company’s biggest strength?
Rozenboom: I think the market today is constantly trying to find where consumers are going and I think that at Jonathan Charles, we are realizing that the company doesn’t technically need to move off of its roots to appeal to people that have a desire to find the best quality in our style segment.
HNN: How would you describe the consumer for this type of furniture and what are they looking for?
Rozenboom: They have an aspirational lifestyle that crosses both urban and city environments and environments that we will call the countryside. And the countryside can also mean near water. And we think that the person, the family and the partners who live these lives, they are actually the same people that can afford the finer things. So they will likely have more than one home and more than one base that they function out of. … We look at how does somebody live when they are in London in a historical home or in Charleston, South Carolina, in a historical home. Or it might be in the high end part of Dallas or Charlotte, where a sense of history matters and it’s about a blend of old and new together. But there is a sense of history and a desire to have those things that speak history. … And I do think that there is this new wave of traditionalism at the higher end — people want to have higher quality goods where they can see the quality versus a lot of the basic neutral sameness that permeates the marketplace.
HNN: You have used the word re-imagined in our discussion. What does that mean relating to the brand?Rozenboom: What we are re-imagining is the history and the storytelling, and a great way to re-imagine is to envision something perhaps in a different material or a different construction. In one case, we are taking a fairly typical Chippendale chair with a fairly simple back splat and we are completely covering it in eggshell. So you see this white surface with the cracking that the shell creates on a traditional form, which is exciting. And we are doing a Regency style chair that would have an exterior frame where we have done it in metal — it is like metal cage work. And in some cases, we are going to take that chair, which is a reinvention of a Regency chair and put it with a mahogany table that is completely traditional. We feel that combination of old and new together — with that historical underpinning — is what can make Jonathan Charles special.
HNN: And all this continues to be made at the Jonathan Charles plant in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam?
Rozenboom: Everything that we make — other than from some subcontractors — is made on-site. We also have expanded it recently — the factory had a really good year last year.
HNN: So, tell us about your new role and what that means to your customers.Rozenboom: My role has changed where I am managing both companies, but the sales teams for the most part are separate as they are independent brands. I would say that Jonathan Charles has been in the minds of many customers fairly clear in its identity, but there are many newer customers who may only know Jonathan Charles from the first things they have seen. The opportunity now is to reframe that acquaintance of who Jonathan Charles is, and what I bring to the table is a creative background that is rooted in business and getting things done. We now have an opportunity to curate what we feel is the best representation of the brand and with the support of the Markor organization, to follow through on our growth initiatives.
HNN: Can you describe some of the key differences in the creative or development approach between A.R.T. and Markor?
Rozenboom: At A.R.T., the focus is decorating the whole room. Or making sure that retailer has that five-piece bedroom. Or that you have lifestyle settings that always connect in your assortment.
Whereas with Jonathan Charles it is almost like a gallery of items. And the opportunity is to find new fans in both trade and in retail and in a very simple way to help them understand who we are. … I would say our focus is making sure that amazing dining table we sell has chairs to go with it and those great beds have coordinating pieces to go with it. So, we are less focused on collections as opposed to allowing the designer in a trade showroom or in a retail store to complete things.
I get a massive amount of gratification from people’s eyes when you show them something they haven’t seen before. And everyone in this market wants to have something special that customers can believe in — that is like the penultimate thing for me to do and that kind of makes it all worthwhile. And with Jonathan Charles we can do that on almost every piece.