Aminy I. Audi; L. & J.G. Stickley, Inc. — American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame (2022)

AMINY I. AUDI; L. & J.G. Stickley, Inc.

AMERICAN FURNITURE HALL OF FAME

ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW

April 14, 2016

HIGH POINT, NORTH CAROLINA

Gary Evans, Interviewer

INTERVIEWER: Why don't we just start out at the beginning ... Tell me about your early years, where you came from, where you went to school, your family. All those things.

AUDI: I was born in Lebanon, a very beautiful country in the Middle East. I am the third child and oldest daughter in a family of nine children. I am very lucky and I would never trade the experience of having grown up in that family for anything in the world. We were a very lively family and we were rarely ever alone. There were always neighbors and friends around. My parents set the standards for our family and there were very clear expectations. These included love of family and neighbor, service to community, and an uncompromising code of ethics as well as a high level of academic and professional achievements. Growing up we never indulged in idle chatter or trivial pursuits. Instead there were endless discussions of history, current events, local, national and international politics as well as poetry debates. My father loved poetry so we all learned to appreciate it and memorize thousands of verses and it has stayed with us all our lives.

INTERVIEWER:Oh gosh, aren't you lucky? Still with you?

AUDI:Still with me. As a matter of fact I host an annual poetry event at my house in Syracuse.

INTERVIEWER:Really?

AUDI:I am going to host one this summer. It is such an anticipated event among my friends and many of them prepare for it throughout the year. Some write poetry and we always conclude with a poetry debate, based on the many verses memorized over the years. Among the things I am most grateful for, is the fact that my parents believed in the importance of education and expected their five daughters to be as highly educated as their four sons. In seventh grade I went to the American girls’ school in Tripoli. Our next door neighbor chided my father saying “Constantine, why are you spending that much money educating the girls, so they can write love letters to the boys?” My father laughed heartily. As a result of my parents’ commitment to educating their girls, all my four sisters are highly accomplished. One teaches at the University of Ottawa, another is a pediatric oncologist hematologist who was recently selected by many of the medical students as the role model doctor for emerging doctors. A third sister studied interior design and is bringing up a wonderful family. The sister I am most proud of is a distinguished philosopher who has authored several books and teaches philosophy at Villanova.

INTERVIEWER:At Villanova?

AUDI:Yes.

INTERVIEWER:Those guys that beat Carolina.

AUDI:I know, I know.

INTERVIEWER:Sorry about that.

AUDI:They beat Syracuse University too but we still made it to the Final Four. I am proud of our SU Team.

INTERVIEWER:Did very well.

AUDI:Yes indeed.

INTERVIEWER:You certainly came from a good gene pool.

AUDI:I certainly did and I am very grateful for that. I am equally proud of my four brothers. My oldest brother was an engineer, two brothers are businessmen and one was a pediatrician.

INTERVIEWER:You have one family member that's sort of in the business?

AUDI:They're not in the furniture business.

INTERVIEWER:Oh the decorator?

AUDI:No, my family is not involved in the furniture business.

INTERVIEWER:Oh, okay.

AUDI:The furniture business is on my husband's side. I married into the furniture business, wasn't born into it.

INTERVIEWER:Right, right. Now your father, besides being a poet, what did he do? Did your mother work also?

AUDI:My mother was a stay at home mom. She was a wonderful person who was very wise and hospitable. She was a woman of few words and a beautiful singing voice. She was very non-judgmental and welcoming to everyone. From her, I learned the virtue of patience and the importance of accepting people’s differences and seeing the goodness in everyone.

My father was a businessman who was very committed to public service. He was the mayor of our hometown, which is how I met my husband. I was campaigning for him and Alfred was visiting Lebanon. My husband was born in New York and he went to Lebanon for the first time to meet his relatives on his mother's side and his father's side. His father was born in my hometown and so that's how I met him. During that political campaign I got the chance to know him and we saw each other for a few months. The last day before he returned to New York he asked me to marry him.

INTERVIEWER:Wow, wow. He was taken.

AUDI:Yes. Actually a week after we met, he told a cousin of his, “I met the girl I am going to marry”.

INTERVIEWER:That's a pretty short courtship.

AUDI:It was. We were married six months after we met.

INTERVIEWER:You were married until his death?

AUDI:We were married for 43 years. He died in 2007.

INTERVIEWER:Yes.

AUDI:We became business partners after we bought Stickley in 1974.

INTERVIEWER:Going back just a little bit, in what part of Lebanon did you grow up?

AUDI:North Lebanon.

INTERVIEWER:Where did you go to school?

AUDI:I went to the American School for Girls in Tripoli. Then to the Beirut College for Women. Later I went to NYU and the New School for Social Research.

INTERVIEWER:That's interesting, just by chance he just happened to be in Lebanon.

AUDI:Alfred got a chance to meet my family and he really felt very comfortable. He felt I am the kind of person he really wanted to marry... I may have reminded him a little bit of his mother. We were different but his mother was a wonderful professional woman too. She was one of the earliest women physicians in this country. She also had a very balanced life. She devoted a great deal of time and energy to her family and she was very committed to community service. When Alfred met my family he saw that many of us were highly educated and involved in the community. He loved the idea that we were a very closely knit family and wanted to be a part of that.

INTERVIEWER:He wasn't put off by nine children and all the activity, and everything that went on?

AUDI: He loved it and he often said, “I love your family”. He was very welcoming to my siblings as well as my nephews and nieces who would often join us for holidays.

INTERVIEWER:He was a Brooklyn boy?

AUDI:Yes, he was a Brooklyn boy and followed the Brooklyn Dodgers.

INTERVIEWER:As a kid I followed the New York Yankees.

AUDI:Did you?

INTERVIEWER:Yeah.

AUDI:He was a Mets fan also.

INTERVIEWER:I have a neighbor now whose father and uncle are both in the Cooperstown Hall of Fame.

AUDI:Oh.

INTERVIEWER:Their names are Rick and Wes Ferrell.

AUDI:Nice. One year during our dealer weekend we took our dealers to Cooperstown and we visited the Hall of Fame, it's very impressive.

INTERVIEWER:When you were in college what was your major?

AUDI:I majored in Arabic Literature, education and communications.

INTERVIEWER:What significant happenings growing up or in college affected your life? Anything?

AUDI:In general I've had a wonderful life that had both mountain-top experiences and deep valleys as well as much in between. Growing up there were two incidents that really affected my life because I've used them also as learning lessons in how to overcome difficulties. One day my younger sister, who now teaches philosophy at Villanova, was playing in her room and a young man who had borrowed a gun and didn't know it was loaded, tried to scare her and said, "Shall I shoot you?" And she said, "No," and he shot her. As a result she lost her sight, she was six years old at that time.

When I look at her life and see how determined she is not let that define her, I am truly inspired. She was the first blind student to graduate from the American University of Beirut. Then she came to this country and got her PhD in Islamic Philosophy and she is considered a world authority in her field. She has written eight books, lives independently, travels on her own and leads a very productive and full life. She reminds me of what my countryman Khalil Gibran, the author of The Prophet wrote, “Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens”.

The other incident had to do with my younger brother who was 40 years old. He was a pediatrician who graduated from the American University of Beirut and came to Pittsburgh for his residency. He then went back to Lebanon in 1980 and opened his private practice. This was during the Lebanese Civil War when there was much turmoil and unrest and many senseless killings. Late one afternoon, as he was leaving his clinic, someone who had a silencer on his gun shot and killed him. To this day we do not know who did it or what their motive was. He was the least political member of our family and he had two young children. While that devastated our family and everyone who knew him, it did not dampen our resolve to continue living productively. My sister, who had finished her fellowship at Children’s Hospital in Boston returned to Lebanon, re-opened his clinic and continues to this day taking care of many patients in Tripoli.

In everyone’s life there are many unexpected turning points and curveballs.

During such times, one discovers how much inner strength he or she has and how important family support is. I certainly experienced that.

INTERVIEWER:Those were very negative things, but you did ... I mean negative in the sense of tragedies, but you did turn them into positives.

AUDI:Yes. I learned to accept what I cannot change. On the positive side I've had so many wonderful experiences in my life. My marriage to Alfred and our life and business partnership were absolutely wonderful and I hold many precious memories. Having three wonderful children and four grandchildren has been a great source of joy for me.

My involvement with the United Nations has been a mountain-top experience. I was a non-governmental delegate to the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna. That was the first time I heard the Dalai Lama speak, as well as President Carter. Then in 1995 I had the pleasure of attending the United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing. The conference’s ambitious and broad agenda focused on “Equality, Development and Peace”. Over 28,000 participants from all over the world discussed virtually all issues concerning women. Despite their diversity and distinctiveness, the various women’s networks found many points of agreement in their visions and their perspective on issues and strategies. Many recognized education as the road map to Equality, Development and Peace. It was a great honor for me to witness history in the making and to introduce the First Lady of Lebanon at one of the daily workshops.

I also got a chance to climb the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall, built over a period of thousands of years by many of China’s emperors, served during this conference as a bridge among people of different cultures and beliefs.

Of course, taking a chance on Stickley and revitalizing such a revered name, has been a most gratifying, exhausting and exciting journey.

INTERVIEWER:When your husband died, were there defining moments involved there? I mean, you lost a partner...

AUDI:I lost my life and business partner, and then the economy went south.

INTERVIEWER:I was going to say, 2007 was not good.

AUDI:I often say “Alfred you left at the wrong time.” Of course we all know there is never a perfect time to lose a loved one. Alfred’s loss was very difficult for me, my family and all our employees. I am very grateful that Alfred and I have been life partners since 1963 and business partners since we bought Stickley in 1974. Together we assumed the responsibility of nurturing Stickley back to health and watched it soar, exceeding all our expectations. We shared all the decision making and discussed daily every aspect of the business, and that made it much easier for me to run the company. Alfred’s passion for the business and his appreciation for Stickley’s construction and finish were so evident to all who interacted with him. His standing in a Stickley drawer to demonstrate its strength and unique construction is still talked about among our staff and many customers. So there was a huge void when Alfred died and then the recession brought additional pressure.

INTERVIEWER:I know Stickley is always a brand that you think of as a top brand. You survived the shift towards China and there aren't many companies that did that. I mean when you look at some of the high-end companies, and you know them as well as I do, that have just gone downhill because they are no longer American-made and not made as well. They all come, from low-end to high-end, off the same finish line.

AUDI:It would have been tempting when the economy went south to resort to some short-term decisions that would not have served us well long-term. One of the advantages of being a family owned business is that we do not have any shareholders to report to. If we have a poor quarter, and like most businesses, we have had our share of that, we do not panic and take short cuts, compromise the quality or change distribution. The overriding concern for me has always been the kind of legacy we leave to the next generation. Our challenge is not merely to inherit and build on a wonderful brand, but to take it to the next level, always adhering to Stickley’s well recognized motto “ALS IK KAN” which loosely translated means “To the best of my ability”.

During the recession I felt strongly that we need to diversify our product line, strengthen our team, invest in technology and continue to build very strong relationships with our dealers. I am very grateful to our dealers and to all our customers and their loyalty to the Stickley brand. I often hear dealers say “we don’t know of any product where the customer comes and asks for the brand by name and they already know what they want.” I am very proud of our ability to get through those tough times and remain profitable despite all the economic challenges.

INTERVIEWER:What can you do if you're a family owned company that you can't as a corporate company? I noticed in your dialogue of guiding principles you never mentioned one of them as making a lot of money, or making money at all.

AUDI:There is nothing wrong with making money, especially when money is a means to helping others improve their lives. In our case we are able to provide jobs for so many people. I am very mindful that there are nearly 1400 families whose livelihood depends on the decisions we make. Being profitable enables us to invest in our employees’ well-being, offer them benefits and annual scholarships for their deserving children.

Making money is not the most important thing in my life. It does not even come anywhere close to my personal mission statement: “To live a balanced life and a grateful life”. I wake up every morning and I write down two lists. The first has all the things I am grateful for. I am grateful for the gift of life, for a new day, for my family, the Stickley team, for the sunshine, for my garden and whatever is going on in my life.

INTERVIEWER:You physically sit down?

AUDI:I physically sit down and write my lists. My second list consists of what I pray for. This always begins with asking for wisdom and guidance as well as strength for the day. I pray for my family and the many people in my life, especially those going through chemotherapy or other medical challenges. I ask for blessings on our Stickley team and their families. When I pray for my family I list their names, knowing fully well that God knows their names and their needs.

INTERVIEWER:He knew their names before you did.

AUDI:Yes, He knew their names for sure. Lately I pray daily for a cure for cancer. I know so many people who are struggling with this awful disease, including members of my family and our staff. And lastly I pray for world peace and for wisdom for world leaders, that together they can build bridges of understanding and appreciation for our common humanity. As far as my balanced life, this is a balance between my family, my demanding professional career and my community service. I am equally committed to those three aspects of my life. Sometimes one requires more time than the others. Obviously my commitment to my family and tending to my children’s needs and celebrating the various milestones in their lives has been consistent. I put in many long hours at Stickley and I take this work very seriously. My community service varies at different stages of my life. I serve on many community boards and I was an elder in our church. I spent eleven years as a trustee of the State University of New York. This was both rewarding and demanding. This year I am serving on the Consensus Commission for modernizing government. Before long, we will come up with some recommendations to improve local government.

INTERVIEWER:Is this for in New York?

AUDI:Yes, it is in Onondaga County, New York.

INTERVIEWER:First of all, you're putting me to shame because I, like you, say a prayer for my family and my son, and for people who are sick and have problems, and the whole thing at night but mine is not as extensive as yours. I usually fall asleep before I finish. That's just ...

AUDI:That’s why I do it in the morning, while I'm wide awake.

INTERVIEWER: I wake up in the morning very happy as you can probably tell. A lot of people say, "Oh, why are you so happy?" Well because of all the things... I'm a gardener, I mean how can you not be happy on a beautiful day like today. Anyhow, do any of your priorities ever get out of kilter and if they do...

AUDI:Sometimes they do. I know that my youngest daughter used to say there are six members in our family and the favorite child is Stickley. Once in a while, if I am preparing for Market, or getting ready to give a presentation: for example I'm getting ready to give the key note address at the Manufacturers Association of Central New York. Telling the Stickley story of over 116 years and doing it justice within 40 minutes, takes time. Sometimes I may be chairing a committee that requires a lot of work and takes me away from home for a while. I am so mindful of the importance of keeping balance in my life and I try my best to do so, knowing fully well I don’t often succeed.

INTERVIEWER:I know people talk about it, especially women because they have the extra responsibilities of day to day raising of the family but it sounds like you got it pretty well down pat and grounded.

AUDI:My children don't always think so and they don't think I devote enough time to myself. I assure them that I am happy and I am healthy. Life is short and I believe we need to utilize every minute because you never know what the next minute will be.

INTERVIEWER:That's right, you really don't. Your starting background in furniture, you were a retailer?

AUDI:When we lived in New York I was a freelance writer and reporter for the Voice of America and I taught at the United Nations International School. The furniture business is my husband's family.

INTERVIEWER:Right, but that's how you got into it.

AUDI:My father-in-law was the largest Stickley dealer in the country and he was in New York City. Every year Leopold Stickley used to have a birthday party and the dealers would come to Fayetteville, NY to celebrate his birthday and see the new product. My father-in-law was so enamored with the Stickley construction and the finish, and the commitment to providing the American consumer with a quality product. He would very often say to the other dealers, "You owe it to the American public to teach them about quality construction. If you do, they will inevitably buy Stickley." He would always stand in a Stickley drawer to show the construction.

I remember the first time I went to the New York City showroom. Alfred and I were recently married, my father in-law said to us, "Your mother and I want to give you a bedroom as a wedding present, what do you want it to be?" My husband who usually was very thoughtful, didn't even think of asking me. He very quickly said, "Stickley." I had no idea what Stickley was. I went to the showroom and my father-in-law was helping a young couple. He was showing them a Stickley table, and romancing the finish adding, "Having breakfast at a Stickley table is like having breakfast with a beautiful woman, it smiles at you”.

INTERVIEWER:Yes.

AUDI:He sold a lot of Stickley. To this day we get letters from customers who say, "My parents bought their furniture from EJ Audi and we still have it, and hope to pass it on to our children." Some would share EJ Audi stories about his business letters that always had gardening tips. He wasn't a typical businessman. He majored in philosophy, but he went into business and was a wonderful businessman. My husband grew up sleeping in a Stickley bed and then he went to Colgate University, where his fraternity was furnished with Stickley. When he joined his family business, they were the largest Stickley dealer. Leopold Stickley died in 1957. His widow Louise inherited the business and tried to keep it going but many of the old craftsmen had retired. She didn't know much about manufacturing and she owed the IRS a fair amount of money.

She actually could not manufacture enough furniture to meet the demand. Sometimes it took up to three years to ship a Stickley piece and people were willing to pay in advance and wait for it. She then realized she couldn't keep the business for a long time. To her credit, she called my husband and said, "Alfred, you're the only one who loves Stickley enough to keep its quality, would you buy it?" I remember Alfred saying, "Oh would I? It would be a dream come true if only I can afford it." Being the eternal optimist I said, "Of course you can." he then called Tom Kindel, of the Kindel company of Grand Rapids (the Kindels were close friends of my father-in-law who sold a lot of Kindel furniture). Tom Kindel flew to Syracuse and looked at the Stickley factory and said "that would be very good Alfred but you need a lot of money." Alfred replied, "You mean $50,000?"

INTERVIEWER:Your husband said that?

AUDI:Yes he did. When I first walked through that old plant in Fayetteville, I literally cried. It smelled of decay, there was nothing going on. There were very few people working, and very small amount of product going through. There were cobwebs everywhere and no aspect of life but my husband was in love. I mean he truly was in love with the product, he was in love with a building that had a leaky roof. That's why they say love is blind. We bought the business in 1974. The early years were very tough years. The odds in our industry were one in ten that we would even make it. We had twenty five employees working and annual sales of $235,000.

INTERVIEWER:It's generally the wife that sets the husband straight but in this case you encouraged him.

AUDI:I did because he was a visionary. He knew that Stickley is a wonderful product and there is a market for it, if only he could make it, tell its story and deliver in a timely manner. He was right, there's no question about that. To get to where we are took a lot ingenuity and hard work because there were times when we couldn't even meet the payroll. We used to say we had Thursday Night Syndromes in the Audi household which meant “can we meet the payroll tomorrow?” We were very fortunate: our lumber supplier was patient, our bankers were cooperative and our people were wonderful. We gradually started hiring and training people. Once we had the right people trained, we brought back some favorite pieces that had been discontinued. Mission was not made at the time, it was mostly colonial furniture and early American.

Then we contacted the remaining dealers. There weren't too many left because they didn't think they could get the product. We assured them that we're serious, that we will insist on quality product, and we will deliver in a timely manner. We opened some new dealers, and some who had been Stickley dealers. These included Marshall Field in Chicago who had a Stickley trend house in 1929, Willis Wayside in Virginia who had been a Stickley dealer since 1907 and Gabberts Furniture and Design Studio in Minneapolis.

In the early years, we had very little capital or inventory and there were times when I used to go home and unscrew the hardware off my bedroom dresser to put it on a dresser that we could ship to a customer.

INTERVIEWER:Are you serious?

AUDI:I am serious. I kid you not, there were also times when I took the China out of our corner cabinet to ship to a customer because it was the only cabinet we had. The early years were both fun and difficult because we just had to make do with what we had. We both worked practically day and night. The old factory was heated by coal, and we had a night watchman who was half drunk half the time. My husband used to go every morning to stoke the boiler so when the employees came, the factory would be comfortable and warm. Anybody who thinks that success comes easy is in for a surprise. We really worked hard but we surrounded ourselves with a great team. Much of our success is due to their collective efforts.

INTERVIEWER:That would be...

AUDI:It was 1974. Mrs. Stickley gave my husband some advice. "Young man,” she said, “don't hire any women or any long haired kids, they're trouble." Those were the 70's when women were not the only ones with long hair.

INTERVIEWER:Right, exactly.

AUDI:Alfred hired women and long haired kids. Some of whom are still with us today. Surrounding ourselves with a talented and a committed team has always been one of our top priorities. Our second priority was to introduce a salable product and to continue adapting and changing with the times. Change is inevitable, yet often difficult. After introducing many favorite Cherry Valley pieces, we introduced 18th century designs in exquisite finishes.

In the mid-1980s we had the good fortune of hiring Bill DeBlaay, a very talented furniture designer and a graduate of the Kendall School of Design. Bill was at Kittinger at the time where he helped launch the Williamsburg reproductions. Bill and Alfred made a great team and worked hand-in-hand on many of the very successful Stickley designs.

In April 1989 we reissued 33 pieces of the historic Mission Collection. These were made by our company at the turn of the 20th century. Made of solid quarter sawn white oak, the simple and unadorned pieces originally were a rebellion against the excesses of the Victorian era. We had no idea how the dealers would respond to this introduction and whether Mission will sell.

INTERVIEWER:It was huge.

AUDI:It was a very bold decision, a million dollar gamble that turned out to be a pivotal moment in the history of our company. Initially several of our dealers were not convinced that Mission would sell but took a chance on it out of loyalty to us. The press, however, realized its importance and timeliness and the accolades began. Metropolitan Home magazine titled it “the revival of the fittest”. The New York Times wrote “it’s brand new but it is authentically Stickley” and a Forbes magazine editor noted “craftsmanship is not entirely dead in America as entrepreneurs like the Audis have proved.” The press coverage was truly amazing and the sales took off. Since we reissued Mission we have had seven expansions in our Manlius factory which we built in 1985, and we purchased five other furniture companies: Heirloom Upholstery, Madison Square, John Widdicomb, Cibola Leather, and Nichols and Stone.

INTERVIEWER:You sell internationally too right?

AUDI:Yes we do, however our international sales do not represent a large percentage of our overall volume.

INTERVIEWER:When you bought your company, what was the industry like as a whole?

AUDI:The industry was not as fragmented as it is today. There were some very large players and many well recognized high-end names both in manufacturing and retail. I remember our first market at the Hickory Furniture Mart. Hickory was still an important market and the Mart had many beautifully displayed showrooms. Shortly after many manufacturers moved their showrooms to High Point, and so did we.

INTERVIEWER:You were in Hickory to start with?

AUDI:Our first market was in Hickory and we didn't even have our own space, we had just a few pieces that our plant manager brought in his station wagon. We had a High Boy, a chair, and a few end tables; a far cry from our market today.

INTERVIEWER:Was this right after you bought the company?

AUDI:Shortly after. 1976 was our first market.

INTERVIEWER:Which part do you like best?

AUDI:I enjoy every aspect of the business. Above all I enjoy identifying talent and putting together a winning team. Alfred and I always interviewed everyone we hired. Alfred concentrated on the manufacturing and I concentrated on the retail and together we interviewed for Senior Management. Now our son Edward does a lot of interviewing. I also enjoy marketing and sales and I love the exchange with customers and hearing their comments and requests. Many customers marvel at Stickley’s finish and often ask if they can buy it to use on some other pieces or on some cabinets they have at home.

INTERVIEWER:Doesn't come out of the can?

AUDI:Of course there is no ready Stickley finish. It begins with the hand sanding that precedes it and the many applications that follow, as well as the extensive hand rubbing. All these combine to make the finish so exquisite and beautiful.

INTERVIEWER:Yes, you don't get hand sanding anymore.

AUDI:Unfortunately not. However hand sanding is still very important to Stickley and contributes greatly to the beauty of the finished product.

INTERVIEWER:Yeah. Excuse me. You know how all this is done? I mean you're a manufacturing person as well as sales person?

AUDI:Although I understand the basics of the manufacturing process I would not call myself a manufacturing person.

INTERVIEWER:You hire good people...

AUDI:We certainly do. This is one of the most important aspects of my job.

INTERVIEWER:You know when something's not right and when something is?

AUDI:Yes, I am fairly intuitive.

INTERVIEWER:In terms of your business, have things changed a lot like production and sales management, any other things?

AUDI:On the manufacturing end, we have invested heavily in technology and became more automated although we still have a lot of handcrafting in our plants. As a company we have become more vertically integrated. When we first bought Stickley in 1974 my husband's family was a retailer, with one showroom in New York City. Stickley had a very small showroom that was no more than 1500 square feet in the old Fayetteville factory which is now a museum, a wonderful museum.

INTERVIEWER:What's it called, the museum?

AUDI:The Stickley Museum.

INTERVIEWER:Okay.

AUDI:In that old factory we decided that we would expand the retail and add other lines besides Stickley. I still remember that we had two North Hickory Sofas and a couple of matching chairs. Gradually, we expanded. Over the years we realized that as a manufacturer we place a premium on very good distribution to our dealer family. There are many parts of the country, and especially in the Northeast, where we do not have dealers. We decided to expand the retail. We have 12 retail showrooms, five of which are in New York State, and others in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Colorado, and North Carolina, where we have no dealers. We are about to open a showroom in Pineville this summer.

INTERVIEWER:Outside Charlotte?

AUDI:Outside Charlotte. We already have one in North Charlotte but we're adding another. We just bought a building in Farmingdale, Long Island which we will open later in the year. We like to own our real estate and we own most of our showrooms and all three of our manufacturing facilities.

INTERVIEWER:Now are all of your stores company owned?

AUDI:All of our showrooms are company owned. We also sell to about 135 dealers throughout the country. Being vertically integrated enables us to weather the storm of the highs and lows because we can control our own destiny. At the same time we nurture our dealer relationships which are already very strong. You can never put a price tag on having a happy dealer family who are very committed to you because you're committed to them It's a winning strategy that has worked for us and the dealers.

INTERVIEWER:How prevalent do you think that is in the industry?

AUDI:Unfortunately it is not. As a retailer, very often it's very difficult to get the distribution that we give to our dealers. We look at a line and say, "Oh this will be great." But it's sold to everybody and it makes it very difficult because then we are competing on price and that's not really what we want. We want to build lasting relationships with our customers. We want them to be able to come back and know that if we commit to offering the finest, we deliver the finest, and it's not just about price. It's about the whole shopping experience and about creating a beautiful home environment.

INTERVIEWER:Exactly. Sometimes it was retailers versus the manufacturer and sometimes it was manufacturer, why don't you do more for me as a retailer. These guys are going, "Why don't you sell more?"

AUDI:Whenever I talk to our dealers, I always thank them for every Stickley order they send because it helps keep our people working. I'm very serious and the dealers know it. I keep reminding them, that if they want to keep the exclusive distribution, they will have to sell more Stickley because we have 1400 families whose livelihood depends on us.

INTERVIEWER:Right, that's a burden on you and your son.

AUDI:It's an awesome responsibility and it is at the heart of every business decision we make: the investments we make, the dealer or company showrooms we open and the overall nurturing of the business. We have a great relationship with the dealers and rely on their support. Even when the recession started, our dealers continued to commit more floor space to Stickley, to promoting the product, and to sending their staff for training. There's a certain authenticity in the way we do business and a level of integrity that the dealers appreciate. They're happy to be a part of the Stickley family. It is a partnership, and a win-win mentality rather than an antagonistic relationship.

INTERVIEWER:It's not them just selling furniture, it's them being proud to sell furniture. You mentioned when you first started out, it was a risk, it was enough to, or should have been enough to turn your hair really white. You mentioned that you got help from your suppliers and you got help from the bankers, could you elaborate a little bit more on people that you could turn to for help in your time of need?

AUDI:We had a very good working relationship with our bank. Our suppliers were willing to give us terms and the community was very supportive. We also turned to some family members for loans which I am happy to report were fully repaid and we got an SBA loan which was very, very helpful.

INTERVIEWER:Had to be for more than $50,000.

AUDI:Yes, it was more than $50,000. When we bought Stickley we were young, innocent and naïve. In the end all is well that works well. We had one major lumber supplier who used to come to the factory, look at the finished pieces and say, "Boy, I sure love what you do with my lumber." He's somebody that my husband used to go to and say, "We need some terms. I can't pay you now, but I promise I'll pay you." There's a lot to be said for having a reputation as a person of high integrity. We're still actually buying lumber from that same lumber supplier. We have more suppliers now because we're a much bigger company and we need more species of wood than he has.

INTERVIEWER:Yeah, exactly.

AUDI:We're also grateful to the Stickley customers because we probably have more repeat customers than any other retailer or manufacturer. A dealer once called my husband and said, "Once you sell people a piece of Stickley, you spoil them for the rest of us, because they'll never settle for anything else." I always tell our staff when presenting the product to show the benefits of the construction. For example, Stickley drawers are hand-fitted and numbered, center guided and side hung, guaranteeing alignment of the drawers and keeping them level, even when heavily-loaded. You can literally stand in a Stickley drawer and we do. My husband, Edward and I, all stand in Stickley drawers to show their construction. If the sales people do a good job the first time around, they never have to sell it again because Stickley sells itself. The customers come back for it and already know what they want.

INTERVIEWER:Still, even though it sells itself, I still love the story about the guy who said that it was like once you own a piece it's like a beautiful woman. That is romancing the product. That's what good sales is really about.

AUDI:One of our best sales people who knows construction, presents the product in a very knowledgeable way, he talks about the benefits of the various features, the differences in the finishes. If he is selling leather he explains the difference between leather that is family friendly and other leather that's going to scratch. He's very honest and believable and customers come back and ask for him.

The other thing that I'm really proud of is the longevity and tenure of our people. We have very little turnover. Last year at our Christmas and awards party, where we give the employees service awards for 5, 10, 15, 20 years or more, the recipients had a combined total of over 2000 years of service at Stickley. Among the recipients last year were a father and a son who had 40 years and 20 years respectively. This year we had a mother and a daughter who had 20 years and 10 years respectively.

INTERVIEWER:What is your day to day management style like?

AUDI:My most important job is to get the right team together and to challenge them to do the best they can. I try to lead by example and am mindful that I set the tone both for our family and our company. I am very inclusive by nature and I encourage everyone to take responsibility for their departments and their actions and hold them responsible for results. I am clear about expectations. While I am very flexible I am quite uncompromising about the important things that are dear to my heart. These include focusing on quality from beginning to end, keeping our promises to our team and our customers, making sure the products we manufacture and sell are not merely the finest quality but a great value as well, having the highest level of integrity and working as a team for the common good. On occasion we've had to let some people go who weren't living up to our expectations and that is always sad.

INTERVIEWER:That always happens.

AUDI:I tend to concentrate on the big picture. I work very closely with our Vice President of Sales on our dealer distribution and our expectations from them and with our marketing department on building the brand, and creating a call to action. I work also with our Executive Vice President of Finance on the financial well-being of

Stickley, our various investments and the long term strategy for the company.

INTERVIEWER:Now, your son is involved. He's the president right?

AUDI: He's president and is involved in every aspect of the business. My daughter Carolyn was Director of Communications for Stickley but now she's a full time mother and is not as involved at the moment. I'm hoping one day she will return to Stickley. The dealers absolutely love her and she used to travel all over and do seminars. She's great.

Alfred and I have three children, Edward, Carolyn and Andrea. They’re all partners in the business but Edward is the only one who is involved full time. He has been president since 2012 and prior to that he spent time in every department in the factory and on the showroom floor. He was responsible, along with our Vice President of Finance, for identifying the location for our plant in Vietnam and seeing it through to fruition. Edward is very strategic and has very good business instincts. He is a good listener, a thoughtful and intuitive decision maker and a caring, competent and compassionate leader.

With Edward’s leadership, the best is yet to come for Stickley.

INTERVIEWER: How do you balance that relationship? I mean mom is mom.

AUDI:Mom is mom. You know there's a time for everything in life, I think this is a time for Edward to take the helm and for me to support his efforts.

INTERVIEWER: You're not a helicopter mom? You're smiling when you say that.

AUDI: I do tell him when I think there are areas for improvement and I actually do his review the way I do the reviews of all who report to me. I'm very proud of him. He's put his arms around the business and our people have faith in him, and it gives our dealers a sense of security that there is a succession plan. That's part of what happens to family-owned businesses when the families who started it are no longer able to carry on and there is no one to follow. Part of good leadership is to ensure a good succession plan. I definitely want Edward to succeed and I'm very proud of his success, and I see it. I listen to him lead the meetings and I stand in the background. Once in a while I would interject something if I felt I needed to, but he doesn't need much guidance in that respect.

INTERVIEWER:How does all that make you feel?

AUDI: I'm very proud and I am confident that what Alfred and I worked so hard for will continue.

Not only will it continue, it will take us to the next level. There are so many areas of technology that Edward is very savvy at that I am not. One of the challenges and opportunities facing our industry right now is the advent of e-commerce. We often discuss whether we should have a presence on the internet or not. We struggle with these decisions all the time because our distribution is so important to us and we want to protect our dealers. At the same time we want to be certain that the public is aware of all that we do. Having a great website where they can view and learn about the product is critical. Edward is very adaptive and also is very mindful of the heritage of Stickley. He is mindful of the legacy that we want to leave behind and that his job is to build on it, not to tear it down.

INTERVIEWER:Who is your target customer? I mean, obviously it's somebody who's affluent enough to buy the furniture.

AUDI:That's very interesting to me, yes, there are many affluent people who buy Stickley. However, there are others who save their dollars so they can buy one piece at a time. We're very mindful that we're not only building furniture for those who are very, very affluent but we want to make it affordable to many who like to surround themselves with a quality product. When you consider investing in a piece of Stickley, you're not going to replace it in five or ten years. You are going to enjoy it for a lifetime and pass it to the next generation. Our customers tend to be highly educated and they do a lot of research. Very often when they come into a showroom, they have already researched each piece, its construction and its history, and they know so much about it. Which is why we believe in educating our own staff and our dealers.

Every year we have three training sessions for all our dealers and our corporate showroom staff. And every other year we have Dealer Weekend where the owners enjoy networking with one another, see what is new at Stickley and enjoy the hospitality and beauty of Upstate New York. We also discuss how to merchandise Stickley, and share best ideas in advertising and sales. Our dealers are very generous in sharing with each other what works for them and they often visit each other’s showrooms.

INTERVIEWER: My question was going to lean toward how you get the young generations like the millennials. I was thinking about your son and his knowledge of technology. Is that part of your strategy? How is that part?

AUDI:It truly is. As a matter of fact, at our dealer weekend two years ago we had a professor from the New House School at Syracuse University speak to our dealers about positioning yourself and the Stickley brand, and how it is viewed and what strategies you need to have. At the end of that session he said to me, "I would love for my students to take that on as one semester's project." We said let's talk about Stickley and the millennials. He had three of his classes work on it and he's coming back in June to talk to our dealers about his findings. Of course millennials fall into different categories. Some millennials are fairly familiar with Stickley, but the younger ones are not. Some millennials can afford to buy Stickley and some of them have family trusts that have been set up for them and they will come into money soon.

INTERVIEWER:Even if they don't, they may have someday.

AUDI: That's right. The most important thing is to acknowledge that millennials shop differently and learn differently. Before they set foot in a store, they do research on the company's website, read reviews, and are very active on social media. They also enjoy shopping on the internet. Investing in our website and making it easy to navigate, and providing information for them is very critical. We're working on that right now. This year we took a limited number of pieces that all the dealers had on their floors and had one selling price that we advertised nationally and put on our website. The dealers were receptive because they knew it's all going to be the same price. This is something we're experimenting with and we wouldn't have done that a few years ago, but shopping habits are changing and if we are trying to approach millennials and gain their business, they want to know the price of the piece they’re looking at on our website.

INTERVIEWER:Right.

AUDI: If they're ready to order, we would send them to their nearest dealer. We're not going to sell them directly. It's an experiment we're having and we will see. Yes, advances in technology and social media are very important and Edward is very, very good at that.

INTERVIEWER:We talked about your business strategies, your management strategies, your goals. You told me about the philosophy of your company, yourself. You described your relationships with your suppliers, your customers, your competitors. What are the challenges in the relationship, if there are any, with your suppliers, customers, competitors?

AUDI:In general, we enjoy a very good relationship with all customers and suppliers. We continue to make sound investments and fortunately right now, we're financially very sound and are in a position to discount our bills. Our suppliers like that.

INTERVIEWER: I think manufacturers like that too.

AUDI: Yes, yes. We're a very reliable company, and have a very good relationship with the suppliers and other manufacturers. As a retailer we work with other manufacturers who could be viewed as competitors but we have very friendly relationships with most of them. We try to do justice to the lines that we represent on the retail end ourselves

INTERVIEWER: I'm assuming that you do a lot of things to keep your people happy because you've got them for 20 or 30 years?

AUDI:We do. I am mindful that you are never going to please 100 percent of the people but we do our best to create a safe and welcoming work environment. We invest in our employees’ well being. We are a union-free company and hope to remain that way.

We have an employee representative meeting each month with representatives from different departments. My husband and I always attend and now my son and I do, as well as our HR director, and our plant manager. They can talk about anything on their mind from, "We need a new fan over this machine," to, "Thank you for the Thanksgiving dinner," or "Can we clean the aisles going into the warehouse”. They realize that they have access. We also have a suggestion box where they can put any suggestions. If there is a great idea that we incorporate, we reward the individual who came up with it.

We promote wellness through many self-improvement programs. Stickley is one of the first companies in the country, if not the first, to have a smoking cessation program and to pay people to quit smoking.

Our “Fit for Life” program includes a weight loss program, annual flu clinic, health fairs, lunch and learn, kids’ safety fun fair. We offer on-site testing in biometric screening and health risk assessment to all employees. We have a full time nurse practitioner on staff and a local physician visits the Manlius factory once a week.

INTERVIEWER:Wow.

AUDI:I can't help but go back to your question that I don't talk about making money. To me investing in the wellness of our team is much more important. Which is why when times are tough and we may say to some of the workers, "We need to move you to another department because you need to be cross trained." They willingly do it because they know that the current business conditions require that we work efficiently and juggle the work load based on incoming orders.

One year when things were really tough, we had a choice, of either laying off some people or working shorter hours for a brief time. We discontinued the 401K match for a year, but we communicated that nothing would make us happier than to reinstate it and we did reinstate it after one year. The savings helped us during that period. The fact that we communicate, and people feel that we care, and are hardworking ourselves and don't ask anyone to do anything we're not willing to do help us overcome the difficulties we sometimes face. Whatever money we make is reinvested in the business and in ensuring a better future for our employees. All these things help keep our people happy. They're there for the long term because they view our success as their success and many of them say, "You're enabling me to buy a home and put my children through college.

INTERVIEWER:I'm glad we approached that question because that's very impressive. It all fits together with the Stickley family. All right, why don't you call it the Audi family?

AUDI:Because Stickley is such a revered name. Actually our retail division is called Stickley Audi and Company, paying homage to both families who built the brand.

INTERVIEWER:Yes, I knew that. Yes.

AUDI:We have the Audi name because my father-in-law had such a wonderful legacy.

INTERVIEWER:You have the brand. If it's working so well, why change it?

AUDI:The Stickley brand is so well recognized and we want to keep it that way.

INTERVIEWER:Being a journalist and reading the New York Times, you see Stickley all the time. I knew Stickley before I knew furniture really and a few other brands. Mostly the ones that were on TV on quiz shows and stuff, you know days when they used to give away Bassett and Broyhill. We probably need to get into associations and furniture associations, and your participation in them. I know that you're a member of WithIt.

AUDI:I am a member of WithIt.

INTERVIEWER:My last interview was with Jena Hall.

AUDI:Oh yes, she's great.

INTERVIEWER:I love her.

AUDI:She's the founder of WithIt.

INTERVIEWER:Yeah.

AUDI:I admire her greatly and I'm so glad that she's been inducted in the Hall of Fame.

INTERVIEWER:Me too, me too. I've known her smiley face and curly hair since I came into the industry.

AUDI:She's a wonderful role model for women in our industry. As you know most of the executives in our industry are men while those who purchase the furniture are women. Jena was one of the earliest women role models and she had the vision to start a leadership organization for women to mentor and support other women in the furniture industry. I admire her greatly.

INTERVIEWER:You're in various organizations. I saw, I believe, that you have an honorary doctorate?

AUDI:Alfred and I both have honorary doctorates from Colgate University. I'm a great believer in education and I had spent 11 years serving as a trustee of the State University of New York. I served on the executive committee, on the community college committee, charter schools and was a co-chair of the international division. As such I represented SUNY in Mexico, Turkey, Poland, and Russia trying to work on having joint programs between the state university and some of those universities abroad. I devoted a lot of time, it was almost like a full time job. I also chaired the search committee for the chancellor during a difficult personal time when Alfred was diagnosed with cancer.

INTERVIEWER:It’s a little hard to talk about your own accomplishments. I think that's a huge thing, what other honors have you received.

AUDI:I'm embarrassed by that because it's all overstated. I realize that every time I'm honored, the honor belongs to all our people or the teams I work with. As you know I was inducted in the Furniture Hall of Fame last October.

INTERVIEWER:Yes.

AUDI:That is a great honor, because the greatest honor an individual can receive is to be honored by one’s peers. I received the legacy award from The Business Journal in our community and the legacy award and the Woman of the Year in Manufacturing from WithIt. I've had a list of awards, it's almost too embarrassing.

INTERVIEWER:I know it's hard.

AUDI:I'm very active in an organization called InterFaith Works because I believe in dialogue among people of all faiths and in building bridges. This also comes from my earlier work at the United Nations and the fact that we have about 37 nationalities working at Stickley. We proudly display the flags of all their countries in our cafeteria. The refugees have come from countries where they had been persecuted and oppressed and had to flee their countries. We work with Catholic Charities and InterFaith Works, the two agencies in our area who resettle refugees. It's very tough for the refugees because they have to learn a new language and a new culture. And if they get a job, they need transportation. I am so very proud of how well all the new arrivals integrate with our existing team. Many of them are now in leadership positions and are contributing both to Stickley and to the community.

I was also the recipient of the Humanitarian Award of the Catholic Charities as well as the Interfaith Leadership award. Sometimes it's more difficult for me to accept some awards because I don't view that I've done enough for them. Like the Simon Le Moyne award that I will be receiving in October which I was very reluctant to accept because I felt, I haven't done much for Le Moyne College, but they insisted saying, “your commitment to education and to the community is a reflection of our mission as well."

INTERVIEWER:How do you have any time for anything? How do you...

AUDI:My assistant sends my calendar to my children and they are tired just looking at my schedule.

INTERVIEWER: Is that Brenda?

AUDI:Yes. She sends them my schedule on a regular basis. I've been blessed with a wealth of energy and good health, and for that I thank the Lord.

INTERVIEWER:That's so funny, you send a schedule to your children.

AUDI:I do. I do.

INTERVIEWER:I guess that's a very good way. You mentioned that you're thankful for being healthy. What's your health program? What do you do?

AUDI:I don't have a health program. This is a huge shortcoming on my part and I must improve in this area.

INTERVIEWER: That's not encouraging.

AUDI: I eat healthy. I don't really go to a gym or anything. I have a treadmill at home that I look at. I just keep going. I enjoy gardening so in the summer I work in my garden and I take frequent walks.

That's a great hobby of mine. As far as really having a health program I had a trainer for a brief time. I'm considering having her come back. I just don't do well on my own.

INTERVIEWER:Do you think happy people are generally more healthy? Happy, busy people?

AUDI:I do, I have to share with you a story that just happened as I was at the airport coming from Syracuse to North Carolina.

INTERVIEWER:That's enough to make you unhappy.

AUDI:I said to the person at the security checkpoint, "I have a knee replacement so I have to go inside this machine." He said, "Sure." I put my luggage, I went through and it didn't buzz. Then he said to me, "You passed, you're very positive." I may have said, "Good morning, how are you today." It's how I greet everybody. One's attitude is really contagious. I didn't do anything to make him think that I am positive. He just simply sensed it. I make no apologies for always seeing the glass as half full. I am the eternal optimist. Whatever happens in life, I realize I can't change, but my attitude will make a difference. I have no control over what happens in life because there are so many unexpected things. I didn't think my husband was going to have cancer and die when he did. I didn't think we were going to have a recession or that our industry was going to go through so many changes and there would be so many challenges.

I remained focused on the positive things that I can effect. I truly believe that our response to what life brings us is as important as what happens to us. We have no control over what happens, but we do control our attitude and response to what happens. I am a very positive person and people want to be around positive people. If you're negative, it just sucks the energy out of the room. It's not worth it.

INTERVIEWER:Everybody should have the sign that says “No Whining Here.” You mentioned just a second ago the challenges. It seems like the cycles of up and down, that's always a challenge. What are some of the other challenges that you see for the industry?

AUDI:The furniture industry, like many others, has been beset by deflationary pressure, spiraling health care costs and global manufacturing excess. Imports, primarily from China remain the most critical issue confronting the furniture industry. With so much outsourcing, many American factories have closed. Thousands of jobs have disappeared and an entire way of life has been lost.

I believe in free and fair trade. For years China has engaged in unfair trade practices including artificial devaluation of currency, disregard of intellectual property rights and state subsidies to furniture manufacturing creating below-market-priced export products.

Another challenge is ensuring a good supply chain, starting with raw materials to the delivery of the product to the customer. Speed to market and meeting the customers’ needs and desires for instant gratification is an area our industry lags behind other industries.

Changes in the shopping habits of consumers, fueled by the growth of e-commerce and driven by the demands of the 83 million millennials is both a challenge and an opportunity. Realizing that e-commerce is here to stay and transform the way we do business, we are navigating our way cautiously through this transition by taking baby steps rather than huge leaps. We are working hand in hand with our dealers to arrive at an ideal solution.

As a manufacturer in New York State, we have the added burden of being overtaxed and over-regulated.

INTERVIEWER:This is all very challenging.

AUDI:It is very much so. Additionally, there is the constant need for introducing salable product to be just in step with the changing taste of the customer. Many people think of Stickley as simply mission. We are that and much more. Although mission proved to have staying power and we continue to expand it, we have added many other designs including modern and updated traditional. One of the challenges is to stop holding to designs that we personally love but where the numbers do not justify keeping them in the line.

As a retailer, our biggest challenge is getting customers into the showroom and addressing their changing shopping habits. We used to spend a lot of money on newspaper advertising. Nowadays newspaper readership is down and digital advertising is much more relevant. We have to address our merchandising mix and the overall shopping experience from beginning to end.

The list of challenges for both manufacturing and retail is endless. But we have to be innovative, nimble and open to change. As result, we have broadened our offerings and now have both case goods and upholstery, retail and wholesale, domestic and international, residential and contract. Ours has been a journey of steady strategic growth and diversification.

INTERVIEWER:There's so many wonderful things about the industry. In fact, it's a family: the whole industry. Any pet peeves that you have about the industry? Things you wish weren't there?

AUDI:The one thing that I really wish our industry didn't get into is this NO, NO, NO business. I wish we could do more promoting our industry as the business of enhancing people's lives. The people in the bedding industry do a good job promoting a good night’s sleep, thus improving the quality of life. Many in the industry tend to have responded to this recession with just discount and more discount, no down payment and no interest etc... I wish our industry didn't go down that slippery road.

INTERVIEWER:Put you in the used car business. I mean in the used car business category. It's all money.

AUDI:Earlier you asked me about the things in the industry I was involved in. I should have mentioned the NHFA and the Board of the Furniture Hall of Fame.

INTERVIEWER:I know most of the people, including my own boss.

AUDI:Kevin introduced me last year when I was inducted in the Furniture Hall of Fame.

INTERVIEWER:He's a great guy.

AUDI:Yes, he is.

INTERVIEWER:He and Ray were just a great partnership. You got involved, when you bought Stickley; how has your management style changed? Have you gone from a strict manager to... Have you even changed?

AUDI:I have mellowed and changed in some respects. As I said earlier, my expectations of leading a very high end business that is known for quality has not changed, nor has my commitment to surrounding ourselves with the best team. What has changed is knowing that we have to be very nimble and to be prepared for the unexpected, and to rely more on our people. I used to be very hands-on. In fact, yesterday somebody was remembering how when we used to come to market I would be the only person setting up the showroom, accessorizing it, doing everything. Now we have a great team and I sit back and take pride in what they're doing. One of the difficulties for people who have done it from the ground up and have been very involved in every aspect of the business is to realize that the time comes when you have to let go, and your job as the CEO is not to get into the weeds but to set the strategy and the direction for the company. That transition is not always easy. I continue to work on it.

INTERVIEWER:Yeah, I would think that would be very hard. It would be very hard not to step in and say, "Do this."

AUDI:Yes.

INTERVIEWER:What one characteristic should a leader have?

AUDI:A leader should be authentic and live with integrity, compassion and respect for others.

INTERVIEWER:What advice do you give for business success?

AUDI: Be innovative and quick on your feet.

Learn from your mistakes.

Think long term.

Know your competition.

Build lasting relationships.

Watch your overhead.

Have a succession plan.

INTERVIEWER:As you know the New York Times also has a Q&A with CEO's.

AUDI:Yes, I know. I often read that.

INTERVIEWER:Have you done it?

AUDI:No, I have not done it. I'm always inspired by the different leaders and their perspectives. It's interesting because I remember somebody saying there are very few leaders who talk about money. In general, leaders or successful leaders talk about meaningful things because money is often a byproduct of good leadership. Not a goal in itself.

INTERVIEWER:Yeah, you're right about that. This has been a wonderful interview. The one thing about these interviews is that I'm so glad to do them because I've learned something from each of the people. You guys are truly visionaries and the icons of the industry without too much flourishment. I think that's true.

AUDI:I'm humbled by that and I'm so glad to have shared the journey.

INTERVIEWER:And still be on it.

AUDI:And still be on it. There are so many other things that I would like to do. I want to spend more time with my family and enjoy my four grandchildren. I have a long list of books I want to read and many countries I want to visit. There are many organizations whose mission resonates with me that I would like to devote time to. I want to visit more dealers and spend more time in our showrooms. I can’t see myself retiring, just slowing down and shifting my focus.

INTERVIEWER:You know, these interviews are very important because they're going to be there forever and generations are going to look back and say, "What made these companies so good?"

AUDI:It's very humbling.

INTERVIEWER:It is. It's humbling to be able to do this and I know our time is up and I don’t want to take any more of your time.

AUDI:It's all right, I have time

INTERVIEWER:Unless you have something else to add.

AUDI:I am grateful for the many opportunities I have been given and for the many connections across time. I am grateful for my family and countless friends, for our Stickley family, our dealers and loyal customers. I am grateful for Stickley’s proud legacy and the bright future that awaits it.

At this stage of my life, I am very mindful that with success comes responsibility and that ultimately, one’s life will be measured not by any material gains but by the commitment to real human values and the difference one makes.

INTERVIEWER:That's inspiring. I have to thank you so very much. It's incredible that you would give me the time, particularly at the busiest time of the year.

AUDI:I'm very happy to do this and I thank you very much for your time.

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