The story of Bernhardt Furniture Company embodies the American pioneer values that forged an industrialized nation out of a wilderness. The people responsible for the early success of Bernhardt recognized the value of hard work and perseverance. They also recognized the value of loyal employees and customers who would respond to fair treatment and a commitment to quality.
The history of Bernhardt Furniture Company is a saga of opportunities recognized and realized in spite of obstacles and challenges. Today this thriving enterprise is one of the oldest family businesses in America.
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.