BY LINDA BAKER
The future of sitting is standing. That prediction distills the essence of Ergo Depot, a Portland-based distributor of ergonomic home and office furniture. Founded in 2005, the company is growing more than 60% annually, a growth rate president David Kahl credits to new health-and-wellness trends, as well as the company’s visually appealing and relatively affordable designs.
“People have become more aware of the damage we’re doing to our bodies by becoming stagnant, sitting for long periods of time,” says Kahl, who is careful to note that he is walking around while being interviewed on the phone. “It’s a natural reaction. When you’re on the phone, you want to be alert.”
Plenty of dealers sell ergonomic desks and chairs, Kahl says. “But no other company does what we do,” which is assembling carefully curated products, including “sit-stand” desks and “saddle chairs,” all in one place. Ergonomic furniture can also be expensive and look like “something out of a Cold War movie,” says Kahl, who selects Ergo Depot’s 108 products for their “nice lines” and reasonable prices. An electronically controlled adjustable-height desk, made in Denmark, sells for about $600.
A former partner in a Manhattan furniture store, Kahl sells primarily to small businesses, as well as sonographers and radiographers. The company, which employs seven, used to sell exclusively online, until last January, when Kahl opened a Portland showroom. Furniture that “invites people to move” needs to be experienced, he says. Since opening, showroom sales as a percentage of total sales have skyrocketed. In 2011, the company grossed about $2.5 million and is on target to gross $4 million in 2012.
More people are realizing that movement is “really crucial even when we’re working,” Kahl says. He plans to open a second showroom in a major West Coast city this year.
The ergonomic segment of the office market is growing and evolving much faster than other segments, he says. “The chairs of the future,” he observes, “are going to look much different than they do today.”
Ergo Depot president David Kahl in his Portland showroom.
Ergo Depot’s Portland showroom, with the Gravity Balans chair in the foreground.
The Swopper features a tilting spring mechanism.
// Photos by Sierra Breshears
Correction appended: This article has been corrected to reflect the following change. Ergo Depot sells to sonographers, not stenographers.