The following article appeared in "Bedding" magazine, in the August, 1982 issue. Although it credits my father Daniel for telling the story, he actually delegated the writing of the article to my cousin Gary. My thanks to Gary for sending it along.
In 1911, when Phillip Krakauer decided to start a spring company, the first thing he did was find a 5,000 sq. ft. loft in lower Manhattan, an area which is now Chinatown. Then he hired his first employee, his teenage son, Abe. "In those days." says Abe Krakauer, "we didn't make innersprings, just upholstery springs. I manufactured them and then dipped them in a coating material. There was no ventilation and the stuff really smelled. ... It made you drunk."
He didn't know it then, but that terrible odor turned out to be the sweet smell of success for Abraham Krakauer.
This month Abe turns 90 years old. He is now Chairman of the Board of Kay Springs, the company where he was once the only employee. How the company grew from that original loft into a leading springs manufacturer with 12 plants and over 600 employees is a story that Abraham Krakauer is very proud of. It is a story intertwined with the life of this man who is a pioneer in the bedding and furniture springs industry.
"After we were in New York for a few years, we moved to Brooklyn," Abe reminisces. That was in 1919. The company eventually bought its own manufacturing facility, a multi-story plant on the Brooklyn waterfront. This factory comprised almost 200,000 sq. ft. and housed Kay's main manufacturing facilities for almost 40 years.
In the meantime, Abe Krakauer prospered in other ways as well.
In 1914, he married Ida Epstein, and they had four sons. Three of them work with him in the business today: Daniel, who is president of Kay; Len, vice president of manufacturing; and Edwin, vice president of engineering. Bill Krakauer, a psychiatrist in New York City, serves on the Kay Board of Directors. Abe and Ida boast of nine grandchildren, two of whom are in the business, and five great grandchildren.
During World War I, Kay began to produce bed springs. Innerspring production was added in the 1920s. A large part of the output of the company went toward producing a variety of springs for furniture. At one point, Kay had over 200 seamstresses sewing and affixing complicated burlap and muslin enclosed spring cushions and mattresses.
By the late '20s, Kay was one of the biggest spring companies in the Northeast, and was shipping nationwide. Nachman-Springfilled (now Nachman Corp.) saw this great growth and made an offer to Philip Krakauer, one which he could not refuse. So, he and his son went into the ribbon business. This was a move Abe remembers with fondness. "We made ribbons for flowers and things like that." The venture lasted for four years until Nachman-Springfilled agreed to sell Kay back to its original owners. Abe still wears the ring presented to him by the Kay employees in Brooklyn when he and his father repurchased the company, which has been owned by his family since.
In the '30s, Kay pioneered the development and manufacture of sinuous springs, along with the No-Sag Spring Company. As this concept gained acceptance, the company expanded geographically to meet the needs of its growing customer base, so that by the mid-1950s when the original patents on these springs expired, Kay was truly a national supplier.
Always an active leader, never on the sidelines is an apt description of Abe Krakauer, known to his associates as A.K. In addition to his business, he has been a Master Mason since 1924. He has also been an active member in long standing of the Ocean Parkway Jewish Center in Brooklyn and the Congregation Anshi Hashoran in Tannersville, NY. He led fund drives connected with the furniture industries in support of UJA, Histadrut, and the Bonds for Israel campaigns for over 15 years. In Masonry, he served as Master of Maimonides lodge in 1955 and later as the Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of New York to the Grand Lodge of Israel. He gained a reputation for never turning down an opportunity to take part or help out when he was needed.
You still see the same qualities in A.K. today - a great energy and an unquenchable interest in detail. Nothing is too small to be considered important. According to his sons, he knows to the penny his payables schedules and cash flow projections - and also the date of the wedding anniversary of his sales manager in Los Angeles, who will get a card every year! People never feel overlooked working for A.K.
The '60s and '70s saw great growth and change at Kay. The Brooklyn facility had become obsolete and was phased out in 1959 in favor of strengthening regional plants. New products and efficient manufacturing equipment and processes, including two generations of automatic assembly machinery, were installed. And the company began its on-going satellite assembly plant program, most recently opening a new branch in Nampa, Idaho.
Behind it all is Abe Krakauer, at 90 years old still active, still enjoying every minute, still looking to the future.
BEDDING'S best birthday wishes to Abe Krakauer and many thanks to his son Dan for telling us the story.