john r. "jack" gerken, jr.
John R. "Jack" Gerken, Jr., (b.1926 d. 2006), past president and chairman of Norwalk Furniture Corp., represents the third generation of his family to manage the company. Jack joined Norwalk in 1947, following his graduation from Colgate University. Beginning as an industrial engineer, he used his strong intellect, rare vision, and unbridled energy to help Norwalk grow from a regional manufacturer to a formidable national competitor in manufacturing technology, industrial relations, and marketing innovations.
In the 1960s, Jack, with his brother Ned, pioneered the furniture franchising concept. For 23 years the concept was refined and the first franchised store opened in 1987. Since then, the "Norwalk The Furniture Idea" franchise has grown to a chain of 76 stores with 25 stores currently in development. In 1996, Furniture/Today named the group the second fastest-growing home furnishings retail operation in the United States.
Gerken was the driving force behind developing the International Woodworking Machinery Show and Furniture Supply Fair (IWF). He helped to unite the national and southern furniture manufacturer's organizations into the American Furniture Manufacturers Association. Jack was prominent in the development of an econometric forecasting model for the home furnishings industry.
He served as a director of AFMA, president of NAFM, and charter board member of IWF and UFAC. He received the IWF Challenge to Change Award in 1984, IHFRA's Pillar of the Industry Award in 1985, AFMA's Distinguished Award in 1987, and the S.C. Johnson Wax Centennial Award in 1989.