A conversation with Chris Dockter of Legends Home

We’ve all heard someone ask if there is a doctor in the house. At Legends Home, there actually is. His name is Chris Dockter, and he is CEO of the company.

Dockter is also the medicine man who wrote the script that transformed Legends Furniture into Legends Home, reflecting the company’s growth from a wood furniture supplier into a full-line, whole-home resource currently offering upholstery, accent furniture, fireplaces and bedding.

Chris Dockter

What follows is a Q&A conducted with Dockter by Home News Now’s Editor-at-Large Ray Allegrezza.

HNN: People who know you tell me you have some interesting credentials. Can you fill me in?

Dockter: Well, for openers, I am fluent in Mandarin and got my bachelor’s degree in Chinese. I decided to earn an MBA in international business, and I came to Arizona after being accepted at Thunderbird School of Global Management. I got an internship for a company that was doing components for Legends and a few other domestic manufacturers. I leaned that Rick Schmidgall, Legend’s owner at the time, wanted to develop an import program. 

With my internship wrapping up and my graduation set for December of 2022, I reached out to Rick and told him I spoke Mandarin and wanted to help him develop an import business. He was just leaving for China and called me when he returned, we discussed his goals, I told him about my capabilities, and he hired me.

HNN: What were your initial impressions?

Dockter: A great company with great people who did things incredibly ethically and professionally.

I realized that they did not have an in-house design team and I have always been interested in design and drawing. So, I started sketching out some designs, flew to Asia and for the next four and a half years we developed and built a really successful import business.

However, making 10-plus trips to Asia a year was putting a strain on my wife and three young daughters, so I asked Rick to relocate us to China, and he did. We moved to Shenzhen, China.

HNN: But after almost five good years with the company, you left Legends. Why?

Dockter: Well, Legends was my first job, and, truthfully, I did not appreciate what good people I was working with. I was fresh out of business school and wanted to change the world and Rick was much more conservative. I would show up with 10 ideas and he would nix about nine of them and let one move forward.

Then, I had an opportunity to leave to go work in the building materials sector. I left on good terms with Rick and left him with enough designs for about two years’ worth of product introductions.

But about a year later, the financial crisis hit and practically all these companies like the one I left Legends for were losing their funding from the lenders and investors. So basically, I was waiting for the phone call telling me that we were going to shut down. The call came and they told me I needed to fire all the people I had hired.

HNN: What did you do then?

Dockter: I put a call into a good friend I had made at American Furniture Warehouse and asked if he had a job for me.

He said, ‘Chris, I could get you a job here, but I think you should start your own business. You know the suppliers; you know how to design furniture. You have relationships. You know how to manage quality control. You have all the pieces, plus you have almost five working with Rick. And if anybody knows how to do business, it’s Rick.’

My wife agreed and we rolled the dice. Jake Jabs, owner of American Furniture Warehouse, was flying to Asia and agreed to let me make a presentation. I hired the people I was supposed to fire, and we got that presentation ready for Jake. Jake Jabs gave me my first order, buying some upholstery from me. I will be forever grateful for that.

But Jake is always a step ahead and was soon asking if I could find him a source for a product I had not heard of — bed in a box. I did my homework and found him a little supplier in northern China that was called Healthcare.

They were doing practically no business in the U.S. at the time. We sent samples to Jake and he ordered a few truckloads! Then, about eight weeks later, he ordered four truckloads. Two weeks later, after that, he ordered eight more. And then he ordered 10 truckloads. And then he ordered 20 truckloads. So then I reached out to RC Willey and after a year and a half, I sold them. Then, we did private-label bedding for them. Next, we sold Art Van and thanks to a super rep, Phil Sherman, we got into Macy’s with bedding.

The bedding sector was growing so fast I opened a factory in southern China with a friend. It was going great, then we all got hit with anti-dumping, so we moved the factory to Vietnam and then, two years later, we get hit with anti-dumping again.

Around that time, I flew to Arizona to an event honoring Jake Jabs. And guess who is also there? Rick Schmidgall from Legends. I went over to say hello and jokingly asked him when he intended to retire. He smiled and said when I bought Legends.

We both laughed, but I found myself thinking if I did, I could bring my mattress production to the U.S. I could grow the companies together. I could use Legends’ sales force to help rep our bedding products. I called Rick in February of 2018 and we closed that deal that October, with Rick staying on for about 18 months.  

In the meantime, with my mattress factory getting hit with anti-dumping duties, I began thinking it was time to begin making upholstery.

So, I went to the owners of this upholstery factory I know in Vietnam, and we became equal partners. I had the building — 230,000 square feet of manufacturing — so we bought the necessary equipment and started making sofas there.

HNN: And that set the stage to become a whole-home supplier?

Dockter: Yes, that allowed us to take our imported case goods, upholstery and bedding along with our domestic case goods and really be a whole-home supplier for our retailers. And so that’s what’s been kind of going on for the last couple of years.

HNN: And that also allowed you to introduce some innovative products like Good Vibe Sleep.

Dockter: Exactly. With Good Vibe Sleep, an affordable, high-value UPS-able line of mattress, we incorporated an immersive gaming industry technology called haptics that conveys sound, touch and information to the user. The mattresses have Bluetooth speakers that not only allow the user to hear sounds, but to feel them as well. They can also seamlessly connect with apps like BetterSleep, Calm and others that improve sleep quality, reduce stress, support meditation and enhance focus.

HNN: Legends uses a term called mixology. What’s that all about?

Docktor: We created our mixology program to allow customers to mix and match from all the company’s categories out of its Vietnam warehouse.

Under the program, our customers, be they large or small, can mix and match products — encompassing both upholstery and case goods across many categories — to fill a container. The container then ships out of Legends’ Vietnam warehouse at Asia pricing with no minimums per item, and we also handle all the logistics.

HNN: So, you are really covering all the bases. You have domestically made goods for retailers favoring those and imported goods, too.

Docktor: What we’ve learned is that we can be successful by innovating and bringing products to market that bring value, help retailers make more money and more margins.

HNN: What else have you learned in this journey?

Dockter: Since Rick launched the company years ago, we have always prided ourselves on taking care of our employees, taking care of our customers and, above all, conducting our business professionally, honestly and ethically.

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