John Mathias Bernhardt, founder
America was beginning to take shape in 1860 when the Bernhardt family moved to the western North Carolina town of Lenoir. John Mathias Bernhardt's rural lifestyle became even more challenging at age 13 when both of his parents died within 60 days of each other. Left to face life as orphans, John and his older brother, Lynn, eventually went to work at a local general store. But unlike his brother, who stayed in the retail trade, John was destined for adventures out west in territory that became the state of Oregon. He secured a job as a government surveyor assisting settlers in the wild frontier, a post that nearly claimed his life. Had it not been for an Indian guide who saved him from a winter bout of pneumonia, J.M . Bernhardt and Bernhardt Furniture Company would not be known to us today.
As it was, he survived this and other frontier ordeals and returned to Lenoir after three years to begin an enterprise that would become one of the country's leading manufacturers of residential and commercial furniture.
Doing Business in a Third Century
Bernhardt entered the 21st century grounded in the values that sustained it in the 19th and 20th— yet fully committed to being as fresh, alert, and aggressive as companies of any age. Appropriately, Bernhardt welcomed the new millennium by opening yet another domestic factory for its growing fabric and leather business.
This was also a period that brought Bernhardt into the national spotlight when they were selected by Martha Stewart in 2001 to produce a line of licensed furniture and in 2006 with a licensing venture with the Smithsonian Institution.
In 2008, the company moved in a new direction with the debut of Bernhardt Interiors, a curated whole home collection of eclectic, customizable, high design furniture. And in 2009, Bernhardt Furniture launched a new division, Bernhardt Hospitality, with a separate sales force to supply stocking and custom furniture to the hospitality marketplace.
Through the years, Bernhardt designs have garnered a host of prestigious awards from industry experts and the media. Among those awards, the American Society of Furniture Designers (ASFD) has recognized the excellence of Bernhardt’s designs with multiple Pinnacle Design Achievement Awards.
The company has also been recognized for its leadership in environmental stewardship with five of their facilities achieving EFEC (Enhancing Furniture’s Environmental Culture) Certification. The company has also developed programs with environmental groups such as SFI, FSC, GREENGUARD, and in support of LEED.
Today, Bernhardt is one of the largest family-owned furniture companies in the world with 3rd and 4th generation Bernhardt family members still actively involved in the direction and management of the family business.
Bernhardt's story is a tale of vision, perseverance, and uncompromising commitment to high standards of doing business. This story continues 125 years later with a focus to anticipate and satisfy the ever-changing needs of customers who expect the very best furniture for their homes, offices, hotels and universities.