Since the first Versteel table rolled off the line in our hometown of Jasper, Indiana in 1985, Versteel has been about versatility, integrity, impeccable quality and great design.
But first and foremost, Versteel has always been about people.
Simply stated, our people are our heart and soul. They are the stewards of our company values, the keepers of the flame when it comes to the quality we deliver to our customers, and the place where everything Versteel begins. So, when it comes to company history, we thought you should hear it from them.
“The people have always been front and center in my mind. I wanted to build something that I could leave behind, for my family and for all the employees’ families, too. I wanted to create something for them.” — Scott Schwinghammer, President of Versteel and Ditto Sales, Inc.
The ideas of legacy and family are the strong anchors of Versteel’s purpose and the native source of our unwavering focus on integrity — and they’ve been there since Day One. When a young Scott Schwinghammer left college in the early 1970s with an education in accounting but no desire to “push a pencil,” he turned to the furniture business, a mainstay of his hometown, Jasper, Indiana.
“Back then, there were not too many people coming back to Jasper after college. But I looked around and saw that there was opportunity here. It’s a clean, hardworking city. Lawns are still mowed on Thursday nights so people can go fishing on Friday and Saturday … I wouldn’t have done this anywhere else.” — Scott
While spending his days as a manufacturer’s representative with Ditto Sales, Inc., which involved selling furniture hardware, finishing supplies and custom fabricated metal furniture parts, Scott envisioned something new. He dreamt of a new business that would take advantage of the stability and quality control that comes with end-to-end ownership of the manufacturing process. He also saw an opportunity to create a product his customers needed: well-made, beautifully designed tables for business settings.
It wasn’t long before word got out in Jasper that Scott was launching something new.
“I started right after my high school graduation, after finding out from Scott’s sister that he had started a new company and was looking for workers.” — Kerry Hochgesang, Metal Operations Manager, Versteel employee for 42 years
Kerry and some high school friends helped Versteel through that summer, and Kerry stuck around.
“I stayed with the company because as dedicated as Scott was to grow the company, I was sure we would grow. And I knew I worked every day with people that had the same work ethic as I do.” — Kerry
By 1985, Ditto Sales was designing, building and marketing tables under the Versteel name. And from those early days, the Versteel spirit of teamwork was alive and well.
“We were a very small company when I first started, so we all had to wear many hats and had many different job functions.” — Kathy Schmitt, Marketing Specialist, Versteel employee for 24 years
It was the beginning of a Versteel tradition involving shared accountability and ground-level innovation that still holds true today:
“We can all pitch in and get the job done because we know each other, and therefore can figure out together how to get it done. When we have a large order and need help assembling, the office people come out and help us, including Scott. They do a good job!” — Donna Pierce, Chair line, Versteel employee for 20 years
“People can report to me and tell me things, but being on the factory floor I can see better ways of doing things.” — Scott
Seeing better ways of doing things proved important. In the early 1990s, Versteel patented a folding table mechanism that provided reliability and flexibility for customers and helped to elevate the brand to the next level. In 1996, the company introduced its first seating line, Companion, which went on to become an icon in the contract furniture space.
“If you stay in the same place, no one gets to grow. We are always looking for innovation.” — Scott
“Over the years, we’ve gone from 2D modeling to 3D modeling and rendering; we’ve got tube lasers, sheet lasers, programmable tube benders, machining centers, robot welders … back in the day, this stuff was all done with presses, dies, single stage tube benders, and so forth. We keep things up to date.” — Jeremy Hoffman, Production Engineering manager, Versteel employee for 21 years
“We’ve got to change with the times. They take information from the employees and use it to make the company better.” — Sue Craney, Upholstery lead, Versteel employee for 15 years
As production innovations continued to accelerate, Versteel’s versatility and passion for design kept pace.
“It used to be a fixed table, now we have up, down, sideways, folding, you name it, we do it!” — Donna
“Ever since we started, we would travel to Europe to study design and look at the trends and figure out where our designs should go next. We live and work in Jasper, but we spend a lot of time around the world, studying design. We’re actually bringing the world back to the town — and we chose to do that a long time ago.” — Scott
“I really like what we manufacture — interesting, modern furniture.” — Jeremy
Versteel’s intense focus on quality, design-forward thinking and ability to pivot to meet customer needs built a reputation for excellence that kept growing; every employee worked to keep those standards high.
“From how we built the company, to where we are today, one thing is still very
apparent we have always produced some of the best quality furniture around.” — Scott Kemp, Production and Inventory Planning Manager, Versteel employee for 37 years
Increasingly, the world beyond Jasper became a part of Versteel. In 2000, after being approached by renowned Italian designers Roberto Lucci and Paoli Orlandini, the company debuted its first design collaboration, the Chela chair. The project launched an ongoing program of thought-provoking, exciting design partnerships that continue to result in award-winning pieces and extend the company’s love of design and innate creativity today.
“Design is what everything is about. If you don’t have good design, what do you have?” — Scott
Informed by great design, the Versteel team began another major project that same year — a move to a new custom-designed headquarters, conceived to echo the ever-evolving Versteel line of products in every carefully considered detail.
“I still remember moving into the new building. We spent a Saturday moving our things across town and getting set up. Scott had a pizza party for us in the new break room at the end of the day. It was a little bit of work, but also fun and exciting.” — Jeremy
“We wanted to make a statement, to show the design world we’re here to stay. And I wanted to give the employees a place to be proud of. It tells the story of Versteel.” — Scott
From our beautiful Jasper headquarters to each innovative new table or chair that makes its way into America’s offices, schools, healthcare facilities or public buildings, Versteel’s story is not only one of what we design and build, but who we are.
“I’ve watched Versteel change over the years and still remain a ‘family oriented company.’ The values that were there in the beginning seem to stay in place, even as we grow.” — Vicki Englert, Sales Coordinator, Versteel employee for 42 years
Our plan for the future? It’s simple. Each day we keep digging deep to make our products the best they can be, bringing our customers beautiful solutions that make their lives better and creating a culture that shows everyone how much we care.
“A lot has changed, but the better question might be what has stayed the same? That is the caring attitude across the company. It makes you want to give your all and do what is best for everyone around you.” — Brian Mundy, Director, Production Operations, Versteel employee for 33 years
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.