Broadview Celebrates 30 Years of Service

As Broadview enters its 30th year in business, we’ve been gathering stories from our past and reflecting on the many connections that have carried us through all the ups and downs. We recently had a chat with Broadview’s founders, Jack and Jane Nyenhuis, about the early days, and recorded some great stories from two original Broadview crew members who remain on the team today.

Broadview was founded in 1989 by an engineer named Jack Nyenhuis who had been working for office furniture giant, Herman Miller for over a decade. As he climbed the seniority ladder, Jack was asked to take on more and more managerial responsibilities, leaving less and less room for the product design and engineering work he preferred.

Jack and his wife, Jane, were in the midst of designing and building their own custom home, and loving every minute of it. The duo had always been fans of architecture, driving around town to scope out different houses and design features they liked. Jack had learned architectural drawing and engineering in school, and the two had a knack for the work. Shortly thereafter, they were given an opportunity to build a home for their friends.

Nervous about leaving the comforts of his big company job before they were ready for retirement, but excited at the prospect of becoming builders, Jack and Jane prayed. And God provided. Jack was able to negotiate a contract with his team at Herman Miller for 20 hours a week of independent engineering to fortify his income, giving them the best of both worlds; stability and freedom. Thus, Broadview Design and Development was born.

Fun fact: Jack and Jane had built their home on “Broadview Drive,” which just happened to be the perfect name for their new venture–a collaborative engineering firm taking a “broad view” of a product in order to come up with the best solution. Also at that time, having a name that was alphabetized near the front of the Thomas Register was a major perk–back in the good ol’ days when buyers had to thumb through giant volumes to find service providers.

The Nyenhuises were enjoying the architectural work, but the housing market was on a losing streak, and they began to realize how difficult it was to make a profit on a custom home. That reality became especially apparent in 1995 when one of their parade homes sat on the market for almost a year. Luckily, the contract furniture market was doing just fine and generating plenty of supplemental work.

Herman Miller had started a new division called SQA, “Simple, Quick, Affordable.” According to Jack, the product line summed up his own values and became his main focus. In 1997, Gene Karn, the engineer running the program was retiring, and not entirely ready for the slow life. So, Broadview hired its first employee, officially becoming an engineering firm.

Adding payroll to the mix was a huge step, but Gene proved a valuable addition to the team. He had a long list of industry contacts and a natural talent for sales, something Jack lacked. The two engineers quickly had more than enough work for themselves and soon hired a third, Craig Verekee, who brought CAD experience to their repertoire and pushed Broadview to drop $27k on a seat of Pro/Engineer. That was in addition to the $20k computer!

Pretty soon Broadview had so much engineering design work to do that they contracted with Phil Carpenter of Product Design, Inc. (PDI). Phil officially joined the team soon after, and brought along his own customers and connections, diversifying Broadview’s customer base into new areas like consumer products. This classic from Sassy Baby Products was one of many fun and highly successful projects.

Our present-day engineering director, Matt Ruster, was the next new hire. Fresh out of college in 1999, Matt was introduced to Broadview through his father, who worked at Herman Miller and relied on Broadview’s engineering support for custom installs. On his first day, Jack put him in front of a giant cardboard box, handed him some tools and told him to put his desk together, an SQA Radian desk that he would be re-engineering for product improvements and cost reductions.

Another fun program they collaborated with Herman Miller on was a residential line called For the Home, which brought back modern classics from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, like the iconic Nelson marshmallow seat , along with several new retro-styled products.

Barely fitting between Jack’s desk and Jane’s desk in their tiny office on Main Street in downtown Zeeland, Michigan, Matt certainly felt at home, like a child getting stuck between mom and dad for misbehaving. He didn’t even get his own computer at first, hopping on whenever Phil or Craig were out visiting customers, which in all fairness happened a lot.

In July of 1999, Jack partnered with his friend, John Battjes, to buy out their prototype vendor, called Phase II Resources, merging it with Broadview two years later. The growing team with it’s new prototype division moved out of their tiny downtown Zeeland office to the old Howard Miller building on Washington Street.

Broadview continued to grow and evolve from there, moving into an even larger space in 2007, just after John retired. Jack continued to grow the company for the next 5 years, upping Broadview’s prototyping game in 2010 with 3D printing technology. Two years later, he announced his retirement. He had found the perfect replacement in Rick Arnold, a newly retired veteran of Prince Corporation–later purchased by Johnson Controls and most recently by Yenfeng.

One of Rick’s first priorities was to grow and diversify our customer base, as Broadview’s focus prior to that had largely been in furniture, interiors and architecture. His knowledge of and connections within the automotive industry expanded our work with tier 1 & 2 suppliers, and led to the addition of manufacturing and quality engineering services to our repertoire. Our team has also grown to specialize in developing medical & healthcare products, lighting applications, and custom machinery, and become known in regional industry circles for our fine finishing work.

Broadview got the team and their spouses together in January to celebrate the new year–our 30th new year as a company, to be exact. True to form, we engineers and makers chose to spend our time tinkering, hunting for clues, and expanding our knowledge at the Holland Museum. As a sponsor of it’s new Smithsonian Spark!Lab exhibit, it was the perfect venue for our event, which of course would not have been complete without silly hats! ;-P