If you’re looking for “typical” when it comes to furniture, ISA International probably isn’t the right fit. But if inspired design solutions, functionality, quality craftsmanship, and value appeal to you, then you’ve come to the right place.
“My model is very simple—just introduce a constant flow of relevant design,” said Kevin Sandler, president of ISA and son of founder Art Sandler. Often working in partnership with some of the top architects and designers in North America, Sandler said the company is constantly being challenged to bring innovative and intelligent solutions to the table, which is in part how ISA has stayed in business for the past 40 years.
The family owned and operated company has evolved from a tiny Toronto-based furniture supplier into a multi-million dollar global operation across multiple locations. “The beginning of the company was very modest, to say the least,” Sandler recalled. “It was basically [my father], our kitchen table at our house, and his car.”
In the early days, Sandler said, his father aligned himself with outside sources, such as upholsterers, finishers, and distributors until the company grew large enough to bring those services in-house. However, ISA’s growth didn’t really take off until the mid-1990s after breaking into the U.S. market, which today accounts for 65 percent of the company’s sales, according to Sandler.
While the company has grown and changed over the past four decades (as the timeline below illustrates), what remains the same is ISA’s commitment to family, to its customers, to the environment, and to constant improvement by looking to the future.
ISA is officially incorporated. Art Sandler runs ISA from his household kitchen table and car. All work is subcontracted out. Sandler is responsible for servicing all customers and suppliers.
ISA hires its first employee.
First showroom located in basement of industrial unit in Toronto.
ISA relocates to 6,000-square-foot showroom and plant located in Toronto. The company orders its first container of chairs from Italy. Sales are primarily in Toronto, and goods shipped outside Ontario are largely for locally based companies with locations abroad.
Kevin Sandler joins ISA and initiates sales to the U.S. market, and the total number of employees grows to 12. Additionally, ISA acquires 8,000-square-foot warehouse thanks to growth in sales.
ISA relocates to 24,000-square-foot building and creates space on site to incorporate its own upholstery and finishing department. These services are no longer required to be subcontracted. Custom orders (designs) become more prominent in bottom line sales.
Company adds 30,000-square-foot warehouse to accommodate the growing number of employees, now at 30. Growth is primarily driven by sales in the U.S. ISA begins participating in U.S. trade shows.
Now moved to 60,000-square-foot facility, ISA expands finishing and upholstery departments, production area is enlarged, and significantly larger numbers of inventory are retained allowing for short-end delivery times. Sales to the U.S. represent 25 percent of ISA revenue.
Total number of employees reaches 50, and the company adds another 25,000-square-foot warehouse.
ISA stocks 30,000 chairs, imports 70 containers per year, and sells product globally. U.S. sales represent 65 percent of overall sales. The company adds another 10,000-square-foot warehouse, now totaling 95,000 square feet.
Photography courtesy of ISA International