Chairman and Founder
Ron Wanek was raised on a sharecropper’s farm near Utica, Minnesota with no running water or electricity. As a young man, his enthusiasm for furniture was inspired by his grandfather and great uncle who built furniture as a hobby.
Immediately following high school, Wanek worked for a newly formed company called Winona Industries. Beginning on the factory floor, his work ethic and ambition caught the attention of the company’s three owners, who Wanek described as “brilliant perfectionists.” One was an engineer. One was a marketer and innovator. The other was an excellent administrator. Wanek worked with each one of them to learn virtually every aspect of the manufacturing business.
In 1963, an opportunity arose to start a new operation in Red Wing, Minnesota, and Wanek became involved in the startup and management of the business, receiving excellent mentoring. It was this history that helped create a foundation for his life and business career.
In 1970, Wanek and a group of investors set out to make a difference in the furniture industry by forming Arcadia Furniture Corporation. This upstart furniture manufacturing company - with Wanek responsible for establishing and managing operations - was in an industry dominated by large companies. In the beginning, Arcadia Furniture Corporation wasn’t considered a serious contender in the U.S. furniture industry.
Over the next six years, Wanek learned all facets of the furniture business, including the importance of having a strong brand name. After ownership and management was restructured in 1976 and 1982, Arcadia Furniture merged into one company: Ashley Furniture Industries, Inc. The new company could now fully leverage a brand name that had been in existence since 1945. Wanek’s determination and expertise were the driving force in laying the groundwork for one of the most incredible success stories in the history of the furniture industry.