David Kahl is an evangelist for getting you out of your seat. At Ergo Depot, he imports and manufactures office furniture made for standing, kneeling, and leaning, all of it crafted with the warmth and simplicity of an Alvar Aalto stool.
Kahl’s globe-hopping career began at Price Waterhouse as a CPA. But after watching the Twin Towers fall on 9/11 and helping his parents with their New Orleans home after Hurricane Katrina, he recalls asking himself: “What value am I adding to the world?” A love of design matched with his own experience sitting at desks offered a simple inspiration. “I’d like to improve one person’s life at a time,” he says, “by transforming their relationship to working and sitting.”
In 2005, he started Ergo Depot in New Orleans, importing and selling European ergonomic furniture with nothing but a website. In 2006, he went shopping for new cities. “I flew into Portland,” he says, “and it immediately felt right. Progressive but comfortable, and easy to have a real conversation.” Ergo Depot now distributes from a warehouse on Swan Island, and in November Kahl moved his showroom from N Mississippi to the Central Eastside. Last year, he also opened a retail store in San Francisco’s Design District.
Given American markets’ narrow selection of ergonomic furniture and the exotic look of some Ergo Depot items, the company offers an incentive: for every piece sold, Kahl will match a customer’s donation to any nonprofit up to $75. “I’m a CPA, so I want us to be around a long time,” says Kahl. “I want to make money, but I want the focus to be on touching people’s live and giving back to the community.”