History

We’ve survived world wars, acquisitions, and recessions. We’ve transformed the way we do business—and helped transform a whole lot of spaces along the way.

So how did we get where we are today? What kept us moving forward? What’s next? We’re glad you asked.

A Storied History

 

Transforming Spaces since 1943. Reborn in 2009.

 

A tale of grit, evolution, and rebirth—all tied to the exact same family and factory. The story of Morgan Li dates back nearly 80 years and is a tale of the American Dream in south suburban Chicago.

Three generations and nearly a century later, Morgan Li operates in the same space as it all began, 383 E. 16th Street in Chicago Heights, Illinois.

 

1943: Par Steel

The year was 1943. Entrepreneur Maurice Rosenband launches Par Steel Products & Adjustable Shelving in Chicago Heights, Illinois.

Already a bustling, steel-focused city and known at the time as the Crossroads of America, Chicago Heights was the perfect place to launch Par Steel Products. Materials were easy to come by, workers were already familiar with steel manufacturing and fabrication, and the city was about to experience it’s golden age in the 1950s.

Catering initially to the Chicagoland area, Par Steel Products built a name for itself as a provider of durable self-service shoe and drug store shelving. And what a great time it was. The rapidly expanding suburban landscape and growing population created massive demand for retail spaces—and Par Steel Products was ready to make the most of it.

Continued investment in the facility paid off, and Par Steel was on its way to growth. Retailers throughout the Chicagoland area partnered with the company. The company expanded into a broader market and began developing partnerships with soon-to-be-significant retailers.

1987: Morgan Marshall

A New Generation & Vision

 

After forty-plus years of sturdy shelving and steady growth, it was time for the next generation of Rosenband to take control. Enter Maurice’s son, Phil.

Continuing in the Par Steel tradition, Phil Rosenband launched Morgan Marshall in 1987. Initially focused on producing record archives for universities, Phil saw an opportunity to bring the back room to the sales floor—and did so at the perfect time.

 

Growing Into, Growing With

 

At the same time that Morgan Marshall started its push into fabricating big, warehouse-like shelving for clients, two of Morgan Marshall’s earliest clients—Lowe’s and Walmart—were on the brink of change. 1987 gave birth to the first Walmart Supercenter. Lowe’s moved from small stores to warehouse stores in 1989.

This started a way of operating that lives with us to this day—growing into a client and growing with them. In the mid-90s, a then-unknown apparel retailer chose Morgan Marshall. A few short years later, Old Navy became the fastest retailer to reach a billion in sales, and helped Morgan Marshall grow to nearly $100 million in revenue.

 

A Decade of Change

 

A late 90s acquisition, and an early 2000s sale left Morgan Marshall operating under the banner of a global conglomerate.

But things still looked good. A third generation of the fixture family—Jonathan Rosenband—was learning the trade. The facility began to innovate with the launch of Bri*design, a customized manufacturer of metal and wood furnishing products. The facility was responsible for more than $100 million in revenue for its parent—until a cold November day in 2007.

As talks of recession stirred, the conglomerate in charge eyed an exit, selling off the product line made at the facility. But this left an opportunity. And a few hundred thousand square feet of unused space still under the ownership of the Rosenband family.

2009: Morgan Li

What do you get when you combine a few hundred thousand square feet of unused production space, a retiring professional soccer player, and the biggest retailer of its time? A new beginning.

 

An Unexpected Rebirth

 

Though he may not have initially planned for a life in the manufacturing world, a then-29-year-old Andy Rosenband was about to take on the family business. A sixth-round pick out of The Ohio State University in the 2003 MLS SuperDraft, Andrew “Lil’ Shush” Rosenband spent the 2000s in the Dallas Burn and Chicago Fire systems while making 123 appearances in the Major Indoor Soccer League.

Following late career appearances representing his country in the FIFA Futsal World Cup and Maccabiah Games, Andy began looking for a new challenge. A challenge that came in the form of a 2008 phone call from Bentonville, Arkansas.

Walmart, a long time Morgan Marshall client, was looking for a partner with the capabilities to refurbish their in-store fixtures. With a healthy push from Jon and Phil, articles of incorporation under the name Morgan Li, and the help of one other employee, the facility at 16th street was once again operational.

At the start, it was just Andy and one other employee at the massive facility—and a return to manufacturing was still a ways away. But with the elbow grease, connections, and damn good work, Morgan Li was on its way.

A Return & New Vision

The fixture refurbishment game was lucrative, and Morgan Li was among the best in the business. Continued work with Walmart, new business with old and new connections, and a ton of hard work got the company through the first years. But things were about to take off.

Jonathan, a rising star in the fixture world, was back, and with his return came a bigger vision. Morgan Li was getting back into the fabrication and manufacturing game. But this time, things looked a bit different.

Understanding the challenges and opportunities in the retail space, Andy and Jon saw retail spaces moving from bland to bold—and reshaped Morgan Li to fill the gap.

Customization was a hot trend—and Morgan Li found itself both nimble and scalable enough to do the job. Between the Chicago-based “Morgan” and global operations from “Li,” clients received a unique blend of customization and scale.

The Rise of Furniture

From custom builds at independent shops to 4,400-location rollouts, Morgan Li made a name for itself as both a scrappy and scalable partner. Refurbishment and custom manufacturing kept the business growing more than 30 percent each year in the 2010s. Partnerships with clients including Claire’s, Adidas, Old Navy, Walmart and so many others grew and matured.

A bet on customization paid off in the retail space, but the company was about to find itself serving a new group of clients looking to create unique connections with guests—luxury and boutique hospitality spaces.

Thanks to a strategic partnership with San Francisco-based Tery R Young, Morgan Li completed custom furniture for the lobby and guest rooms of several boutique hotels in the Bay area that were undergoing extensive renovations. A long-time customer and a visionary in both retail and hospitality, Tery connected clients with fresh ideas and Morgan Li with new opportunities.

Bed, headboard, and casegoods at boutique hotel Wheelhouse Chicago

Today: More Than Made

Continued focus on partnership, creativity, and personal touch has paid off—and the company has continued to expand.

Today, clients know Morgan Li for being More Than Made—and for delivering Inspired Experiences No Matter What. Whether it’s a statement piece at a single location, a global rollout, or somewhere in between, clients trust Morgan Li to get the job done on time, on budget, and just like the rendering.

Andy & Jon remain the hands-on leaders they were when Morgan Li opened. The company continues to focus on doing things differently, more creatively, and memorably. Bumpy roads don’t slow us down; in fact, we welcome the challenge. We will gladly flex to conditions, put in 200%, take detours and turn on a dime to meet our customer’s needs.

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Whether you have a completed design or an inkling of an idea, we’re here to help you bring your vision to life.

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Cash wrap and perimeter displays at Brooklinen flagship in New York City. Custom retail fixtures by Morgan Li