HOW THE TRADITION BEGAN
For more than six generations, The Kittinger Furniture Company has set an unparalleled standard among manufacturers of fine furniture.
The company was established in 1866 – one year after peace between the North and South was restored. It was a time when America held a wealth of natural resources, a burgeoning free–trade market, and a massive western frontier waiting to be developed. Industrial entrepreneurs were filled with high hopes and magnificent expectations. George and Oliver Colie were such entrepreneurs.
The Colies’ opened a paper factory in the bustling Great Lakes port of Buffalo, New York. Soon thereafter, they also began to manufacture upholstered furniture and that business boomed. In 1885, they opened a furniture plant that produced beautiful hand–crafted furniture in classic 18th century styles.
When George Colie’s son-in-law, Irvine J. Kittinger, took the helm The Kittinger Furniture Company was born. To Irvine Kittinger, quality was paramount. “Our business is not primarily to turn furniture into money, but to produce something really worthwhile.” he wrote.
In 1966, the Kittinger family sold the company to General Interiors Corporation and thus an “Era of Revolving Door Ownership begins:
1975 General Mills Corporation
1986 Chicago-Pacific Corporation
1988 Maytag Corporation
1989 Ladd Furniture Corporation
1990 Michael Carlow private investor
Although the respect for the furniture industry varied by owners, the quality of Kittinger Furniture remained excellent and was always the pride of it’s skilled workers! Unfortunately, in 1995, due to mismanagement and under a federal indictment, the Elmwood Avenue doors to Kittinger were closed forever. A pending auction loomed and this chaotic Era in Kittinger history came to an end.
In 1996, Ray and Karen Bialkowski purchased The Kittinger Furniture Company and the intellectual property. They re-established the company in the Tri Main building in downtown Buffalo, New York. Many of the original craftsmen were brought back as the company began production again.
Ray completed successful carpentry training at McKinley High School in Buffalo, and while attending College, he began working at Kittinger as an apprentice in the sanding department in 1979. He quickly advanced from apprentice to cabinetmaker and then master cabinetmaker and even into a leadership role in cabinet department. When Kittinger closed their doors, he started American Executive Furniture in 1995 with Kittinger craftsman, and eventually purchased The Kittinger Company. The “New Era of Kittinger “ began.
Karen, a graduate of Buffalo State University, with both a BA and MA, has completed many hours of certification to pursue her passion in interior decorating and design. She has branched off to develop The Kittinger Gallery, as a new concept locally to serve retail and to the trade clients.
Together, they both continue to grow Kittinger in the Buffalo area, the USA and abroad. Most recently, Kittinger relocated to their own building, new corporate headquarters and factory in Northern Buffalo.
The Kittinger family’s original philosophy remains the cornerstone of the company’s business today. The Kittinger Furniture Company still produces the world’s finest handcrafted furniture, using the same care, detailing and innovation for which it has been renowned throughout the century. We take great pride in the fact that we have served many customers again and again, including families across several generations. The Kittinger Company has also built custom furnishings for many of the finest offices in this county and throughout the world, including many Government offices at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue for more than two centuries.