A Handshake and an Opportunity
Business Furniture’s original owner’s C.S. “Cy” Ober had served as first sergeant in the Army Aviation Service in World War I. In 1919, Ober started his own office furniture business. David Hunting, who owned The Metal Office Furniture Company, known today as Steelcase, took a train down from Michigan to meet Ober in 1922 at Indianapolis’ Union Station.
Steelcase had a five-person sales force and wanted to expand. They needed help selling their three products: a steel filing case, wastebasket and desk. Hunting asked Ober to become his first office furniture dealer. That handshake deal, which still stands today, helped form Business Furniture Corporation of Indianapolis. Business Furniture became the first Steelcase dealer in the world.
Business Furniture officially opened February 13, 1922. Our strategic partnership has continued ever since, with Business Furniture serving as Steelcase’s largest office furniture dealer in Indiana, and now with great offices in Ohio and Illinois. When you pair the savviest teams with the best products and distribution, it’s a great, long-lasting combination.
Business Furniture relocated from its original location, 42 South Pennsylvania Street in Indianapolis’ Wholesale District to 112 East Maryland Street near downtown Indianapolis near where Circle Centre and Conseco Fieldhouse (Lucas Oil Stadium?) are today.
Business Furniture celebrates its 25th-year in business on February 13, 1947. Employees and guests celebrate at the landmark Columbia Club located on the Circle in downtown Indianapolis.
1950s and 1960s
Business Furniture hosts world famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright when he visits Indianapolis on Nov. 3, 1957.
The C.A. Shrader Building at 101 South Pennsylvania Street is purchased and renovated. The Business Furniture Design Department is created and becomes one of the first of its kind in the country, and includes a female designer.
101 South Pennsylvania becomes the premier location in Indianapolis for large and small business to shop for the latest innovative office furnishings.
Indianapolis Mayor Richard “Dick” Lugar’s office asks Business Furniture to construct the conference table for the event, with one caveat: it must be designed and built in less than 48 hours. The table accommodates the 35 council participants and is done on time.
President Nixon and other dignitaries convene the Council of Urban Affairs in Indianapolis in February 1970. Indianapolis Mayor Richard “Dick” Lugar’s office asks Business Furniture to construct the conference table for the event, with one caveat: it must be designed and built in less than 48 hours. The table accommodates the 35 council participants and is done on time.
Business Furniture celebrates 50 years in 1972.
Richard A. Oakes, who worked from 1971-1987 in various sales management positions at Steelcase, purchases Business Furniture in 1987 from Cy Ober and becomes the second owner of the company in 65 years. A year later, Debra M. Ware partners with Oakes as co-owner. Business Furniture becomes Indianapolis’ oldest and largest provider of office furniture and services in central Indiana. (was there a larger one outside of central Indiana or can we just say Indiana?)
Outgrowing the downtown facility and wanting to consolidate, the Sales and Operations of Business Furniture moved into one location. The new corporate office with a 20,000 square foot showroom and a 50,000 square foot warehouse distribution center open in 1996 at 6102 Victory Way on the Northwest side of Indianapolis.
A year later, Business Furniture celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1997 and was presented with the Steelcase’s Founders Award, which recognizes “the very highest achievement in demonstrating leadership and partnership among dealers.” It is a rare honor given by Steelcase for “exemplary performance of dealers who share business techniques and procedures with other independent Steelcase dealers to better meet customer needs.”
Rapidly advancing technologies have changed the traditional working space. Just like our clients, Business Furniture has evolved and continues to be at the forefront of design innovation for functional, efficient and high-performing office and work environments. The AIA (American Institute of Architects) and IIDA (International Interior Design Association) bestowed awards to Business Furniture in 2011.
2010s through today
We continue our passionate discovery of the best ways to work, the finest products to facilitate employee engagement, and the myriad of ways to serve our clients well. In 2012 we opened a new showroom in Dayton, Ohio to provide that dynamic city with the finest products, service and design thinking.
In February, 2016, we opened our new Distribution Center on the northwest side of Indianapolis. This facility also houses our new Showroom.