July 15-18, 2024 Summer Casual Market Atlanta
September 16-19, 2024 Fall Casual Market Atlanta

ICFA ANNOUNCES 2024 LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENTS

ICFA ANNOUNCES 2024 LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENTS

Happy Land and Joseph Ziolkowski to be honored at Awards Gala on July 16

HIGH POINT, N.C. – The International Casual Furnishings Association will honor two longtime outdoor furniture industry leaders with its most prestigious recognition, the Lifetime Achievement Award, at the ICFA Awards Gala during Casual Market Atlanta next month.

Happy Land, former sales manager for several casual furniture manufacturers and now a member of the retail staff of Custom Outdoor Furniture in Garden City, S.C., and Joseph Ziolkowski, respected executive director of the Summer and Casual Furniture Manufacturers Association in the mid-80s, will each receive the distinction as part of the evening program at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was created in 2002 to distinguish industry executives whose ideas have advanced the growth of the casual furniture industry and whose actions and accomplishments have served as role models or inspirations for others. Acknowledged by their peers, the honorees’ achievements must have stood the test of time.

Happy Land’s Legacy – Influence, Honesty and Community

Happy Land

When 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award winner Happy Land considered switching her banking and tax collection career to sell Pawleys Island Hammocks, she was cautioned against leaving her secure future. Ready for a change, she ignored the naysayers and began a prestigious 40-plus-year career in the casual furnishings industry. “I never looked back,” she said. “Ahead, I found unlimited opportunities for personal and professional growth, world travel, building deep relationships and using my influence to affect significant advancements through IFCA board leadership.”

Happy’s intensive training in her new career involved spending time with the artisans who created the handmade products for Pawleys Island Hammocks, many of whom represented several generations of talented craftspersons. She joined Pawley’s in 1982 and a few years later the company was named Manufacturer of the Year. Observing the influence of the Summer & Casual Furniture Manufacturers Association Board of Directors on uniting and improving the industry, Happy became the first woman to take a leadership role and worked with her Lifetime Award co-winner, Joseph “Joe Z.” Ziolkowski, SCFMA executive director. “He is one of the many industry giants from whom I learned so much and admire tremendously to this day. The board members’ support and encouragement were invaluable to my growth and learning experience and have compelled me to provide the same to those younger than me.”

After serving on the SCFMA/ICFA boards periodically throughout the next four decades, Happy’s status evolved from representing a manufacturing company to becoming an independent sales representative. Now, she participates in the retail segment. “Before transitioning into the ICFA, the SCFMA members were all manufacturers and mostly male. I was often the only woman on the board in those days, and it concerned me that there weren’t more of us from the manufacturing sector shaping the future of an industry where most of the products are sold by women to women. When the retailers, suppliers and sales reps were all welcomed into the ICFA, new conversations and collaborations opened up. It was an extremely friendly atmosphere; everyone listened to each other’s concerns, and even though some of us were competitors, we found common ground and worked to make changes and improvements that have elevated our industry into the cohesive entity we are today,” she said.

Happy became acutely aware of the depth of relationships her involvement in ICFA had created when faced with a natural disaster. “We were at Casual Market Chicago when Category 5 Hurricane Hugo ravaged the coast of South Carolina in September 1989. I couldn’t reach my Mom, who was watching my children at home. At the Apollo Awards banquet, someone said, ‘There is no island at Pawley’s Island anymore.’ Until I could get home, my industry colleagues surrounded me with kindness, support, empathy and love. They came together to have my back. I was overwhelmed by their response to our catastrophe,” she said.

Twelve years later, real tragedy hit again, and Happy was away from home. “On 9/11, we were at Casual Market Chicago when the attack occurred. We couldn’t go anywhere for three days. We weren’t sure what was happening, and all we had for comfort was each other. I was in a temporary showroom getting texts from my husband as the planes struck. The Merchandise Mart became a ghost town. The bonding that ensued during this crisis was galvanizing. We all just went there to sell casual furnishings and ended up sharing this momentous event and realizing what is most important in life. Those are memories you share forever,” she said.

While driving programs and policies to benefit the industry through ICFA involvement have always been a source of satisfaction in Happy’s professional life, selling is her true passion. “I love making the sale and closing the deal,” she said. Formerly a sales manager and now a part-time salesperson at Custom Outdoor Furniture in Murrells Inlet, S.C., Happy has been helping her customers make their best purchasing decisions for the past 12 years.

As a seasoned sales trainer and enthusiastic mentor, she offers simple advice. “Be real, be honest, be sincere. A sale is much more than a number on a paper for which you claim credit. It’s important to establish a personal relationship with your customer. You must sell yourself without being aggressive if you are to earn their trust. It is equally important that you know what you’re talking about! Learn your product from the inside out. Customers respect your knowledge, and it gives them confidence in buying what you’re selling!”

Humility is a characteristic that Happy demonstrates and promotes. “Give everyone the respect they deserve and listen so that you can learn from them. Embrace what those before you have done and find your way to make our industry better. Become involved, attend conferences and network with everyone – especially those who might be competitors but share your challenges. Don’t rely solely on phones and computers. True personal connection comes from spending time together.”

Women helping women has been a theme of Happy’s life and continues through her ICFA involvement and a loosely formed little group from work affectionately known as Female Adults of Custom Outdoor Furniture (FACOF), a group of ‘gently mature’ women who work for the retailer. “Occasionally, we’ll invite the younger girls to join us for a session, which may include wine or Jello shooters and conversation at the beach or a swimming pool. We talk about everything except work, while commiserating and celebrating the moments of life. Sisterhood is good for the soul and for business,” she said.

When Happy lost her son in 2007, then her husband and soulmate two years ago, “it was the strength of my relationships – both personal and professional – that were my greatest source of comfort and healing. My mother, Miss Gertie, still lives in her own home at the age of 96. She is the epitome of a strong, Southern woman whose hard work in life is an inspiration to all who know her,” said Happy.

Happy finds joy in keeping in touch with her son, his wife and her two creative granddaughters living in Tacoma, WA. She doesn’t expect to retire anytime soon. “I will work as long as I can and still enjoy it!” said Happy.

Joe Z, A Founding Father Who Set Industry Standards for Safety and Collaboration

Joe Z

After more than six decades of championing self-regulation of safety codes for the home furnishing industry, there isn’t much that surprises Joe Ziolkowski, known best by his nickname Joe Z. Learning that he would be honored with a 2024 International Casual Furnishings Association (ICFA) Lifetime Achievement Award was, however, entirely unexpected.

“At 87 years old, I certainly have built a long lifetime of memories,” he said. “From my start at Burlington Industries, through my leadership positions at the National Association of Furniture Manufacturers (NAFM), the Summer and Casual Furniture Manufacturers Association (SCFMA), the American Furniture Manufacturers Association (AFMA) and my ‘post-retirement’ as Executive Director of the Upholstered Furniture Action Council (UFAC), I’m grateful for all the opportunities to work with outstanding people to promote change that advanced our industry and saved lives. I enjoy that reward every day.”

The first step in Joe Z.’s professional career was a job with Burlington Industries, which he started in 1961. He joined the National Association of Furniture Manufacturers in 1978, and his diplomatic skills helped guide a merger with the Southern Furniture Manufacturers Association to create the organization that is now the AFMA. “The office moved from the Washington, D.C. area to High Point in 1984, and we focused on collaboration and addressing the issues that affected all manufacturers so we could find solutions together,” he said.

The merger was completed and Joe Z. was tasked with developing and implementing the programs prioritized by the members. As executive director of the SCFMA, this included managing the interests of the outdoor furniture manufacturers. He handled every aspect, setting up seminars, planning the early Apollo Awards banquets and traveling domestically and internationally to advocate and lobby for the members. During those early days, Joe expanded the facets of the industry awards program by moving from one retail Apollo Award to separating the Single-Store and Multi-store honors and broadening the number of categories in the Design Excellence competition.

Among the issues impacting the SCFMA at the time was the desire among some members to relocate the biannual market from the Merchandise Mart in Chicago to Atlanta. “The Board of Directors met in Atlanta in the early ’90s to discuss the move, and unanimously decided to stay in Chicago. Almost 30 years later, the ICFA held the inaugural Casual Market Atlanta in July 2023 at AmericasMart,” said Joe Z.  Another merger occurred under his leadership when a smaller casual furniture trade group based in Naperville, Ill., joined the SCFMA, recognizing the benefits of being part of the much larger and more influential entity. The move served to increase the number of manufacturing companies participating in the industry trade show at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.

Also under his leadership, the SCFMA Board of Directors inducted its first female member – Happy Land of Pawleys Island Hammocks – and introduced a broad range of industry supplier members to the AFMA organization.

His most demanding project was convincing manufacturers of indoor and outdoor home furnishings to adopt the safety standards developed by the UFAC, of which he was an active member. “My objective was to help hold the industry responsible, to have them participate and protect consumers with flammability standards based on the technical research of the UFAC. If they didn’t, the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) would set their sights on us, and we’d have safety standards regulated by the government.”

Participation in the fire safety program became widespread, largely thanks to Joe Z.’s hard work and persuasion skills. A 1978 study revealed that the previous 90% of deaths caused by upholstery fires involving cigarettes were reduced by almost half when the materials utilized in manufacturing met the flammability standards.  It proved that lives were being saved, and the manufacturers listened; subsequently, the industry self-regulated their safety standards.

The rest of the world took notice. Joe Z. traveled to Europe, Canada and Mexico, teaching his international counterparts how to set up and monitor their versions of the UFAC program. He supplied them with hang tags for manufacturers that adopted the standards. Three years ago, more than four decades later, the CPSC mandated similar standards.

Joe Z. retired from the AFMA in 2000, continuing his career for another fifteen years as the Executive Director of the UFAC. He kept adding to his legacy of promoting safety, self-determination and collaboration while protecting the home furnishing industry’s positions and interests. He still keeps his hand in by regularly meeting with his successor. He is happy to offer advice and technological knowledge. His suggestions for those seeking a successful career like his are, “Never say anything bad about anyone. Talking about people says more about you than them. Always be nice. Don’t get excited if you disagree; don’t let the discussion get heavy or start an argument.”

His second retirement is spent enjoying time with his wife of 65 years, their daughter and two grandchildren, now in their twenties. Joe Z.  focuses on maintaining his health, riding his stationary bicycle several times a week, fishing and reading three or four books weekly. He also participates in three different medical studies to help with research that will benefit future generations, reflecting his continuing commitment to helping others, professionally and personally.

Joe Z. is a humble figure, uncomfortable with being characterized as a pioneer in promoting consumer safety. He shies away from being referred to as ‘the furniture industry’s noncontroversial and non-publicity-seeking Ralph Nader.’ “It took the combined effort of many significant industry members who, by volunteering their time and influence to serve on committees and investing in change, made our products safer. It was always a collaborative mission,” he said.

Happy and Joe will be presented with their Lifetime Achievement Award during the ICFA Awards Gala on July 16 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Tickets are available for ICFA members to order tables for10 guests priced at $800 or individual seats priced at $85 each. Non-members can secure tables at $1,1000 or individual seats at $110. ICFA will donate 20 percent of ticket sales to City of Hope, the Duarte, California-based research and teaching hospital dedicated to curing cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases.

Tickets can be ordered online by clicking https://form.jotform.com/241015389980158. In addition, a variety of sponsorship opportunities can be secured by clicking https://form.jotform.com/241495644151053.

Trolleys from AmericasMart will shuttle guests to and from the downtown location. A post-party on the field following the event will offer attendees the opportunity to celebrate with the honorees.

###

The International Casual Furnishings Association supports and promotes the growth of the outdoor and casual furnishings industry through professional education, networking and development. It is the only trade organization committed to promoting the sales of its members’ quality products and services. It is a powerful partnership of manufacturers and importers, retailers, sales representatives and designers of outdoor furnishings plus suppliers to the industry. For more information, please see  www.icfanet.org.