The building that sits at 820 Monroe NW in Grand Rapids has a rich history as a vital part of Furniture City, USA. The building served as an industrial hub for several different businesses throughout much of the 20th century. Over the years, this old factory has put its stamp on many industries; including furniture, automobiles, candy, and now housing.
Prior to 1914, the plot of land that now houses the old factory was occupied by housing developments. However, in 1914, development of the land began for what would be the future home of John D. Raab Chair Company. Once completed, the building was used for production by the furniture manufacturer. The company operated under this name until 1920 when the manufacturer incorporated as The Furniture Shops of Grand Rapids to include a complete line of living room, library and hall furniture. At this time, the facility at the current 820 Monroe address was rated among the top factories in this line of woodworking. In 1923, The Furniture Shops of Grand Rapids merged with Luce Furniture Company, expanding the business immensely. Following the merger, the building continued serving its purpose as a productive factory rooted deep in the vibrant Grand Rapids furniture industry. Fast-forward a few years to 1927, and the building at 820 Monroe NW sees, yet another, acquisition. This time, the buyer comes from outside of Grand Rapids. The company was purchased by Kroehler Manufacturing Company out of Naperville, Illinois. The new company operated its division known as Furniture Shops of America, Inc. out of the facility. This was the first, and only, time that the building’s ownership was held by a company outside the state of Michigan. Unfortunately, in 1933, The Furniture Shops of America, Inc. filed for bankruptcy and the facility was closed. The building sat empty from 1933 until 1941.
After eight years of neglect, new life was breathed into 820 Monroe in 1941. At this time, the building was turned in to the Grand Rapids Fibre Cord Company, under the leadership of Wade E. Sackner. The Grand Rapids Fibre Cord Company, at the time, was one of the most substantial and prosperous industrial enterprises in the city. The company’s success was largely due to the revolutionary practice of spinning paper into fibre cord. Although, during World War II, the Grand Rapids Fibre Cord Company joined with other manufacturers in the city to create war output pools, halting their normal production to produce materials necessary for the war. The 820 Monroe factory was also a well-known place of employment for many women during the War.
Under the direction of Mr. Sackner, the business grew rapidly and spanned across multiple industries, providing products for the furniture, automotive and candy industries. As the company grew, Sackner’s interest in the business also grew, and eventually, he held the majority of the company. At this time, the business took on a new identity and became Sackner Products, Inc. This change also brought with it a major change for the 820 Monroe facility. For the first time in nearly 40 years, the building was not utilized as a manufacturing facility but rather a traffic depot and office space for the newly formed Sackner Products, Inc. The main plant for the company was located at 609 Myrtle St NW. Unfortunately, Mr. Sackner died in 1950, shortly after this change, and would not be able to see the growing success of the company into which he had poured so much.
Mr. Sackner was a man who knew what he was doing when it came to his industry. Throughout his years in business, he obtained more than thirty patents for a variety of products – most notable being different varieties of fibre cord. Due to his innovative ways and sound leadership, the company continued to thrive even after his passing. So much so that the building at 820 Monroe was converted into Sackner Products, Inc. Plant No. 2 in 1961. The building was returned to its manufacturing roots and stayed that way for twenty years before being vacated in 1983.
The building sat vacant for just a few years before being converted into a variety of stores and offices. This became the primary use of the building from that point on, and as time passed, the building had become highly underutilized. Recently, 616 Development purchased the property and is working to convert the space into a thriving center for both retail and residential use. The first phase of the project will be completed in November 2015 with a second and third phase reaching completion in December and January, respectively. The new redevelopment will be home to ground floor retail, 86 residential units on floors 2-4 and a rooftop deck with stunning views of the Grand River and downtown Grand Rapids.
** For more information on pre-leasing any of the available units at 616 Lofts on Monroe, please visit our sister-site, 616lofts.com