When a hijacked airliner slammed into the Pentagon last September 11, it did more than kill some 250 Americans and shake America's confidence. The crash and ensuing fires destroyed dozens of offices in the 60-year-old defense complex. Since October, a southern Indiana furniture-maker has helped Pentagon quartermasters re-outfit dozens of new offices.
"After September 11, the Pentagon needed office furniture in a hurry," says Philip J. Gramelspacher, general manager of Jasper Desk Co. Inc., in Jasper. "We put together a plan and a schedule, and in seven to eight weeks, we sent out 670 units, and that included desks, conference tables, credenzas and filing cabinets. We had everybody caught up by the end of December. They were really chomping at the bit."
Serving the Pentagon in its time of need is par for the course for Jasper Desk. Other high-profile clients in the last year have included First Lady Laura Bush, who wanted a Texas-style desk for a West Wing remodeling project and use by her staffers; Vice President Dick Cheney, who requested four executive-style desks; and the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who ordered special desks for FEMA offices around the United States.
"That's exciting," Gramelspacher says of filling furniture orders for customers who are household names. "We enjoy doing that for them."
Jasper Desk has been making office furniture for nationally prominent politicians for years. President John F. Kennedy often sat at a Jasper Desk to sign bills into law.
But Jasper Desk's clientele goes well beyond Washington luminaries. The company makes and ships desks and office furniture to corporate customers all across the U.S., and to Australia, England, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Germany.
"For 45 years now," Gramelspacher says, "we have sold office furniture to Exxon. We're not a big company, but we can still handle any size order, from $2 million down to a few specialty units."
STARTED IN 1876
Jasper Desk advertises itself as the oldest wood office furniture manufacturer in the U.S. When the firm was founded as the Alles Brothers Furniture Co. in Jasper in 1876, Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant was president, and George Armstrong Custer had yet to make his last stand on Little Big Horn Creek in far-off Montana. The U.S. was celebrating its 100th birthday that summer when a group of German craftsmen who had recently immigrated to Jasper from the Black Forest began making desks and wooden home and office...