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The Just Lean Back Story

Just Lean Back was for many years called Nikita Convertibles and  was founded by Nikita Grigoriev, who designed the first patented futon convertible sofabed in 1982. The patent (US # 4,538,308) was granted on Sept 3, 1985 and it established a new product category in the US patent office.

Nikita Grigoriev was an aeronautical engineer and an airline pilot. He quit the airline and began making Convertible Furnishings in 1983. Two years later, Nikita purchased an old building in Richfield Springs, NY and assembled a crew of three production workers and one sales representative.

The early convertibles were rather elaborate contraptions with wheels and springs and storage boxes and even self stowing headboards. They were made of solid maple and cherry and were beautifully finished. They sold for about $900 retail.

As product recognition and demand for futon convertibles grew, Nikita opened a second store in 1987 in Oneonta, NY under the name of Simple Design. Based on market feedback and accumulated design insight, that year Nikita completely redesigned the convertible sofabed frame. The new generation convertibles were then known as G - 2, for Grigoriev second generation convertibles.

The new futon convertibles were revolutionary in that they were much simpler, lighter, had sloping seats that automatically leveled for bed position, shipped in compact boxes and, most importantly, sold for half the price of the earlier ones. This significantly helped to expand the popularity of futons and broaden the market base.

In 1988 Nikita was approached by Shaffield Industries Inc. for a license to manufacture and sell the new G - 2 design. Shaffield, a Tennessee based corporation, acquired the license from Simple Design and began marketing the new futon convertibles under the name of EZ Convertibles, because of the ease with which they converted from sofa to bed and back to sofa.

Shaffield quickly grew to become the world's largest futon manufacturer and distributor. Nikita was paid a royalty on all G - 2 futon convertibles sold but was contractually barred from designing and manufacturing convertibles on his own.

Three years later Shaffield Industries was sold to Winston Corporation, a large furniture group. The new owners replaced most of the management of the old, successful company with new personnel. The new management greatly over extended the company and was unable then to supply quality product in a timely manner. As a result, the new company, at that time called "New West", was liquidated after only three years.

Although Nikita lost royalty income, he was free again to design and build convertible furnishings. Under a new company name of NIKEA (which stands for Nikita Engineering and Art), Nikita redesigned the Convertible Sofabed again, taking its evolution to the next level. The new convertible frames did more things, did them better, and did them automatically. Please read about these new frames in the section entitled "Design Comparison".

The new mechanism of the JustLeanBack frames is based on a deceptively simple four bar linkage which allows the sofas and chairs to Just Lean Back into perfectly flat and stable beds. This design was granted a  US patent # 5,722,101 on March 3, 1988. This is revolutionary, state of the art technology for convertible furniture. It's sophisticated because it's so simple. Nikita believes that the best and most elegant solution to any design problem is the simplest one.


In the mean time, Nikita had renovated the manufacturing facility in Richfield Springs and designed a new, super efficient production system. Each piece of rough lumber is carefully measured and then individually machined for incredibly high yield. The cut off waste is very low but even that is used for heating in high efficiency stoves. The remaining woodchips and sawdust are all collected and provided to farmers for animal bedding, after which they are composted and returned to the soil. This amounts to nearly 100% efficiency in wood resource utilization which is not only gratifying from an environmental perspective but also essential for economic survival in overwhelming global competition.

Global economy, off-shore competition, and in particular, "third world" production has definitely overwhelmed US manufacturing at almost every level. Many domestic manufacturing companies, if not entire industries, have been decimated with the resultant loss of US employment. This has been due, in part, to a great disparity in standards between American and third world facilities where the workers have been paid wages as low as 2% of American wages and where worker protection and environmental issues are usually completely ignored. This has posed a great challenge to American manufacturing. In order to survive we had to rise to a completely new level.

Nikita believes that this challenge is being met.

It could only be done through great design innovation, ultra high production efficiency and a total dedication to quality.

Innovation. Efficiency. Quality.

This is what Nikita founded the company on and to what it strives.

Innovation that begins with design concept and extends through production technique. Good production technique allows for high efficiency and a good work environment. This, in turn, promotes a high standard of quality. Quality that extends from our hand made products to our service and dedicated customer support.

We, at Nikita and Just Lean Back, don't regard our product as just another commodity. We consider it to be a reflection of who we are as people. This is why we try our hardest to make sure it's the best we can make it.

As the global economy struggles, the rules for the manufacturing "playing field" continue to change. Rising labor costs overseas and rising fuel and transportation costs are motivating some American CEOs to consider bringing manufacturing "back home". As it becomes increasingly less cost effective to take advanatage of "underdeveloped" countries, and as people become tired of throwing poorly made expendible products into American landfills - MADE IN THE USA is becoming a buzz, a fashion, a cause.  Nikita Convertibles and Just Lean Back have been here all along.

Bring manufacturing back home? Why, we've never left!

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