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Sharon Harris explores one of the casino industry’s best-known companies – seating specialists Gasser Chair Company
Gasser Chair Company, of Youngstown, Ohio, has supplied seating for the hospitality and gaming industries since 1946. The three Gasser brothers – Louis, Roger and George – launched their company following World War II. Today, CEO Gary Gasser and President Mark Gasser head the 125-employee team, which includes second and third generation family members working in every department of the organization.
Soon after Gasser Chair’s founding, Louis exited to pursue a medical career. He did remain a silent partner for most of his adult life. After retiring from medicine in the late 1980s, he returned as company medical director until his death several years ago. Roger, a machinist, helped pioneer the use of aluminum, specifically for the entertainment and hospitality industry. He died in the late 1970s.
Youngest brother George entered the firm full time upon his high school graduation in 1947, one year after its incorporation. By then, Gasser Chair was manufacturing multiple furniture lines, from dining room chairs and tables to railings, window frames for new homes and aluminum beer kegs.
George was a gifted salesman when interacting with customers, but the brothers soon realized that they had to generate more orders to remain profitable. In 1949, they decided to strategically target a broader market and exhibited in the first National Restaurant Association (NRA) convention.
At that convention, George met gaming legend Bill Harrah, and the rest is history. Today, the casino industry ranks as Gasser Chair’s largest single niche market.
George helped develop worldwide quality standards and many casino seating “firsts”, focusing on quality and durability. Since those early days, Gasser Chair has cultivated a loyal following of domestic and international customers of all sizes.
Among its client list, the firm counts prestigious venues such as the new Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, several Four Seasons and Hilton hotels, plus numerous privately-owned restaurants and country clubs. Many of their new opportunities result from customer comments and referrals, which provide the best recommendations for those considering furnishing their casino with Gasser products.
Director of Poker Christopher Trabue and Senior Director of Slots Beverly Price brought along their continuous relationship with Gasser when relocating to work at Calder Race Course in Miami Gardens, Florida. Gasser Chair had supplied seating to every property where they had previously worked. Trabue had several years of poker experience at numerous Isle of Capri properties. Price spent 15 years at Harrah’s properties in Louisiana’s Shreveport/Bossier City market.
The 41-year-old racetrack decided to construct a new gaming facility opening. The STUDZ poker room opened in October 2009; the gaming room in January 2010.
Trabue and Price have always understood the basics of successful seating. Comfort results in longer play, while casino seating endurance and appearance also impacts customer reactions. They determined that Gasser Chair offered the highest quality and variety for their needs, and still rave about their chair purchasing experiences.
Mark Gasser’s goal is to hear more of those accolades. He stresses the key role seating plays in a casino’s success. He states, “A casino with outdated seating may be unknowingly chasing customers away, particularly in a market where other gaming choices are available. After the game itself, the seating provided in a casino has the most intimate contact with the player. It is simply good business to provide a clean, comfortable and secure seat for the patron at all times.”
To achieve the desired seating longevity, casinos must purchase chairs with top quality fabrics and mechanisms. Gasser cautions that in addition to reflecting poorly on the establishment, worn and tattered seating can become an unacceptable liability as the assembly points and moving parts wear due to continuing use and abuse.
“Like casino carpeting, slot and table game stools and chairs are products that can only be cleaned or reupholstered so many times before reaching the point of diminishing return and needing replacement,” claims Gasser.
Price agrees that seating directly impacts customer satisfaction. She says, “Chairs can enhance the casino experience, go unnoticed, or make life miserable with guest complaints and constant maintenance. Our older demographic requires seating that provides the same comfort from the time they first sit down to when they finish after hours of play. Casinos often attract dirt, so we wanted elegant, durable chairs that we could easily keep clean.”
Trabue also expected durability as a prerequisite. “We have not replaced any casters or dealer chair hydraulics, which can be a common thing. Gasser produces quality chairs with absolute real value. It is ironic that because Gasser’s chairs are so great, we won’t need to buy new chairs any time soon,” claims Trabue.
Looking ahead this year, Gasser anticipates growth. He says, “Aside from a few new gaming projects, postponed normal replacement and remodeling plans are complementing casinos’ long overdue renovation efforts. We expect continued increases in 2011, based on economic improvement and recent trade show inquiries about new casino furniture. The strong turnout at the January Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas bodes well for 2011.”
To address a larger volume of sales, Gasser Chair has introduced multiple new models and options:
• The Park Avenue luxury collection features a sophisticated “window” backrest design, with an extraordinarily comfortable, generously padded seat and backrest.
• An expanded Players Choice “Comfort Plus” series offers stylish ergonomic designs with numerous options, including poker seating versions.
• The innovative patent-pending “Floating Base” for slot seating adds excitement, thanks to the popularity of disc bases in casinos. The design increases mobility as it significantly reduces the likelihood that the base edge will catch on the carpet when the stool is moved.
• Throughout the recession, casino operators have demanded extra value in casino seating. For some, the answer has been Gasser Chair’s unique “Proven Solutions” program. Factory remanufactured stools and chairs are sold at significant savings of 20 percent to 30 percent. Similar to classic car restorations, Gasser Chair performs a “frame off” refurbishing process. The renovated furniture is undetectable from new products.
As solid members of the Youngstown community, Gasser Chair views itself as an organization committed to civic conscientiousness and socially responsible gaming programs. The company supports a “green” environment, recycling its older seating products.
As solid corporate citizens, Gasser Chair produces 100 percent of its product line at either the Youngstown headquarters or the nearby Berlin Wood production facility. The firm has contributed significant tax revenues to Ohio’s treasury over six decades.
After several failed attempts, tough economic conditions motivated Ohio voters in November 2009 to approve the construction and operation of casinos in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo. Gasser Chair is eagerly preparing to actively participate in this future casino marketplace.
Mark Gasser hopes that their long business history in Ohio gives them an advantage as a supplier. He says, “With so much to look forward to, I expect 2011 to be an exciting and demanding year.”