by Victoria Ritter
The classroom can be a dynamic space for students. USACapitol, a family-owned furniture manufacturer, seeks to add a personal touch with its unique selection.
All of the company’s products are made in the U.S., with 99 percent of the raw materials made in the country. “Everything we can buy from the United States, we do source here,” said Todd Mantz, owner and president of USA Capitol. “That allows us to have a quick time to market and have a lot of color options and customization.”
Charles Reed and Mantz’s father Terry founded USACapitol in 1986. Reed worked for a regional furniture company while Terry was employed at a large consumer products business. The two met while searching for vendors and decided to go into business together, selling hard plastics furniture. At the time, hard plastic furniture was made in the northern states while southern and western states concentrated on soft plastics.
“My dad and his partner said, ‘We’ll make hard plastic in the south!’ And they started manufacturing it in Texas,” Mantz said. “They were the only ones at the time who did. It was a good gameplan to get started.”
Mantz joined the company two years later. He and his wife Kristy, who came on board as USACapitol’s vice president, fully took over the business seven years ago.
Colorful choices galore
While USACapitol’s main focus is on K-12 classrooms, its furniture can be found in collegiate settings, corporate offices and break rooms, churches, convention spaces and medical offices. “My joke is that every front porch in our hometown has some of our chairs sitting on them because they make their way home,” Mantz said.
USACapitol’s catalog features a base of 200 products – from chairs and stools to tables, desks and accessories. With the dozens of customization options, customers have 57,000 variations to choose from. “For me, it doesn’t matter what component you’re working with, just as long as the customization is there,” Mantz said.
The ability to provide an array of colorful furniture further sets USACapitol apart from other manufacturers, Mantz said. Customers have more than 20 colors to choose from for tables and chairs, from subtle and neutral tones to vibrant and playful hues. Educators can color-coordinate classrooms based on school colors or their own theme.
“You can add that touch of color and texture into the room,” Mantz added. “It makes the room not over-stimulating, but still fun. The teacher doesn’t have to put stuff up everywhere for color and make that space inviting for students. School should be the most exciting part of the day.”
USACapitol’s most popular products are its chairs. Mantz credits this to branding, as the company was formerly known as Capitol Seating Company. Today, its seating options come with different platforms, from swivel stools and rockers to regular desk chairs in multiple heights.
The furniture provided by USACapitol is ideal for school use due to its quality and longevity, said Mantz. When designing a product, Mantz and his team consider what raw materials are available and how to use them in the most cost-effective way. “If you look at school furniture, all of the top sizes and shapes (for tables and desks) come out of a 4-by-8 or 5-by-10 board,” Mantz said.
Current trends lead to creation
In recent years, Mantz has seen a growing trend of establishing different areas within a classroom. Additionally, there has been an increased emphasis on collaborative spaces once in-person classes resumed after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tables in USACapitol’s Interlox System collection, with hooks underneath the tabletops are ideal for not only individual work spaces, but also creating pods. Plus, with unique shapes such as circles, triangles and wavy rectangles, teachers can adapt the classroom to their needs. “We’re seeing a lot of collaborative desks that can break out into individual units for testing, but then come together,” Mantz stated.
Demand for desks with castors has increased. USACapitol’s Makerspace tables, outfitted with castors, are another option for collaborative learning spaces. The heavy-duty tables are designed to be workspaces for tools, 3-D printing, working with the “tactile part of education,” according to Mantz. “People are leaning on it, putting weight on it. They’re not just sitting there writing – they’re doing activities.”
A growing trend centers on providing students an outlet to expel energy while sitting down. “There was a period of time when people wanted a chair that had a rocking motion,” Mantz recalled. “The problem with those chairs is that the teacher is trying to teach and students’ heads are bobbing and bouncing. With our heavy-duty swivel chair, the person can still focus while they can bounce their leg or swivel quietly at the same time.”
USACapitol typically introduces new items yearly. Designers work on new products in the spring and summer. Construction takes place in the fall, just in time to have the items available for the new buying season. EDspaces is the main show at which USACapitol exhibits. The company also participates in state shows with dealers. Its products are available for purchase through authorized dealers.
“We like to participate with dealers because they have all kinds of furniture. We don’t make all of the furniture for schools. The dealers are going to have different manufacturers who make different things which are displayed at shows. The shows are a good time to get samples, make sales calls, work a show with them.”