For over 60 years, OW Lee Company has been known for producing some of the finest high-quality wrought iron patio furniture available. With all of the changes in the casual furniture industry over the years, companies like OW Lee have continued to lead by remaining committed to high standards. In an effort to learn more about the company and their principles, we contacted Terri Lee Rogers, President of OW Lee, with a few questions.
How did OW Lee get started and what was it like in the early years?
"O.W. Lee Company was started in Pasadena, California in 1947 by my grandfather, Oddist W. Lee (O.W. Lee). Before World War II, he had worked as a welder for a company called Brown Williams, the predecessor to the Brown Jordan Company. Due to the difficulty in obtaining materials during the war, Brown Williams was disbanded, and plans were made to restart when the war was over. Plans changed, however, and Oddist went into business for himself making custom gates, railings and furniture for the lovely estates in the Pasadena area of Southern California. Eventually he started to sell to furniture stores and in 1954 incorporated under the name O.W. Lee Company. In the 1950’s Oddist's son Bob (my father), joined him, working after high school and eventually taking over the business when Oddist retired.
Throughout the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s, my parents, Bob and Beverly Lee, established O.W. Lee Company as a well known and reputable manufacturer in the ever growing casual furniture industry.
Today, the third and fourth generations of the Lee family maintains Oddist’s commitment to quality. In the late 90’s, Bob’s son Brian (my brother), myself and son-in-law Chris took over the management of the company, and recently my daughter Leisa and son Paul have joined the company."
With most manufacturing done overseas in today's market, OW Lee has continued to manufacture here in the US. How has this shaped your company's identity and how have you remained competitive without compromising as some of the others have.
"Because we were established as a manufacturing company so long ago, we have many advantages in grandfathered processes and permits that a start up business cannot obtain today. We feel that this coupled with our conservative approach in managing our growth and maintaining value in the company, gives us a competitive advantage."
OW Lee has received numerous awards in the outdoor furniture industry throughout the years, but what do consumers have to say about your products?
"Consumers buy O.W. Lee furniture because they recognize the value for the dollar. We receive hundreds of inquires on our website asking questions about furniture that a consumer has owned since the 60’s & 70’s asking for a recommendation on where to get their furniture refinished, or where they can find replacement guides or replacement cushions. We have one of the best, if not the best, warranty in the industry, and we have been around along time, so if something goes wrong with the furniture, they know that there will be warranty support.
One story comes to mind where a gulf coast hurricane victim sent us pictures of the only thing left of her home, an “Old World” three seat sofa. It was a sad story, but the woman said it was comforting to have something survive the hurricane."
What are some of the toughest challenges that OW Lee faces in today's market?
"Our #1 challenge is competing against poor quality imports. Spectacular catalogs and websites portray a glamorous photograph of an outdoor setting however quality can not be measured by a photograph. Also, we are environmentally conscious in our manufacturing processes, and we respect and value our employees. Over 50% of our workforce has been with us for over 10 years."
With a long history of success to build upon, where do you see the company in 20 years?
"I feel as if my grandparents and parents handed me an opportunity of a lifetime. I would like to be able to offer that same opportunity to future generations.
O.W. Lee stands for quality and as a family owned and operated business, we have pledged to continue the commitment to quality and value started by O.W. Lee 65 years ago."
What is one thing most people would be surprised to learn about OW Lee?
"He loved his poodles." (Pictured left: Oddist with his poodles, Heidi & Henry)
We'd like to take a moment to give a special thanks to Terri Lee Rogers for spending the time to tell us all a little more about her family's company and share some of her personal photos. It's clear to see that the rich family heritage and traditions of OW Lee have continued to endure throughout the years. If you would like to learn more about OW Lee, you can visit their website or contact one of our outdoor furniture specialists.
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