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john bray

"The name Vanguard by definition is the foremost or latest in a trend or fashion movement. We always are looking for ways to improve, looking for people that have the same passion and want to make a contribution as a team to build the business."

In 1970 after being awarded a Bronze Star while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, John Bray joined a promising furniture start-up, and was named president “without any prior experience in the industry" within the first year. Today, Vanguard Furniture Company is a highly regarded domestic manufacturer of upholstery and case goods design, today with more than 600 associates employed at seven manufacturing facilities in North Carolina and Virginia.

Committed to continuous improvement and staying at the forefront of new technology, Mr. Bray introduced revolutionary computer-aided design used in the fashion industry to upholstered furniture. Impressed by what he saw at a bobbin show in 1987, he pursued the development of technology to digitally drape fabrics on upholstery frames. By enabling consumers to preview fabrics via computer, whether in a store or on a website, they could visualize how various fabrics would look on the furniture, thereby reducing costly returns for his manufacturing operations.

In the late 2000s, as the pool of furniture workers dwindled, Mr. Bray led the establishment of the Catawba Valley Furniture Academy, providing hundreds of people with the skills needed by area furniture manufacturing companies. An influential and respected voice for employee healthcare in the industry, he opened one of the region's first work site clinics, and first medical home plan, which drew national recognition. In 2004, to reduce healthcare costs and improve benefits, Mr. Bray brought together self-insured manufacturers and businesses in the area to create a preferred provider organization.

Mr. Bray has served on many boards, including the American Home Furnishings Alliance, the High Point Market Authority, the Frye Medical Center, the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce, the Catawba County Champions of Education, the Bank of Granite and the Catawba Valley Community College. In 2011, he was recognized as Business Man of the Year by the Lenoir-Rhyne University Business Council.