Longtime outdoor furnishings executive Gary McCray has been named as this year’s recipient of the International Casual Furnishings Assn. Lifetime Achievement award.
The son of a nursery and landscaping company owner in Hickory, N.C., McCray has spent more than 40 years in the outdoor furniture industry, and just this spring retired as president of Klaussner Outdoor after launching the division for the whole-home producer in 2014.
Armed with a degree in furniture manufacturing and management from North Carolina State University, and experience working in his family’s company through high school and college, McCray started his furniture career in the furniture industry at DMI Furniture in Huntingburg, Ind. There, he worked as a product engineer overseeing the development of wood and upholstered furniture before moving to join Venture Furniture Co., which at that time was a division of the Lane Co.
In the early 1980s, while still working with Lane Co., McCray traveled to Southeast Asia to develop wicker and rattan furniture for the company’s debut outdoor collection.
After successfully launching that first collection of outdoor pieces during the 1983 casual market, the newly renamed Lane Venture Co. honed its focus on the category through the latter part of the decade, with McCray leading the development of its WeatherMaster products. This use of specially-treated natural wicker frames and patented, quick-dry cushions proved to be a popular combination and ultimately led Lane Venture Co. to transition into an exclusive outdoor furnishings resource in 2009.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, McCray got involved in the merger of two indoor Lane Co. divisions into Lane Venture, effectively doubling the size of the company. In addition to that, McCray also worked to increase brand exposure for the combined company, adding new partnerships with designer Raymond Waites, outdoor lifestyle brand Eddie Bauer, celebrity chef Rachel Ray, and more. In 2008, upon the retirement of Art Thompson, McCray was named president of Lane Venture.
With the company’s involvement in the outdoor category increasing, McCray became active in the ICFA’s predecessor, the Summer & Casual Furniture Manufacturers Assn., where he served on the board of directors and was named chairman from 2000-2002. During his time with the group, the Lifetime Achievement Award was created and the industry began the process of moving independent factory shows to an organized industry-wide premarket show.
He returned to leadership for a year in 2009 with the association, now called the ICFA, as a director before being elected as vice chairman from 2012- 2013, and serving as chair from 2014-2015. During his tenure as chair, he helped renew the board committee system, which collaborated to initiate ICFA’s charitable relationship with the City of Hope, created the Richard Frinier Design Scholarship, revamped the ICFA website, held the first ICFA Educational Conference and represented the ICFA on the board of the American Home Furnishings Alliance.
In late 2013, McCray left Lane Venture to help establish Klaussner Furniture’s outdoor division, Klaussner Outdoor. There, McCray helped develop things like cordless outdoor motion furniture, LED-lighted accent tables, and RealisTeak, an engineered polymer material designed to look and feel like natural teak.
Traditionally, Lifetime Achievement award winners are honored during Casual Market Chicago at the ICFA Awards Gala, but amid ongoing concerns around COVID-19, details on the timing and format of the presentation have not yet been determined.