P. Graham Dunn is a family owned and operated business that opened its doors in 1976; however, its roots began in politically unstable 1940’s China, and like most stories, are rich in both tragedy and beauty.
The “P” in P. Graham Dunn stands for Peter, the owner and founder. He is the son of missionaries Marvin and Miriam Dunn. Marvin and Miriam met and married in China while serving with China Inland Missions. Their adventures were many. During World War II, Marvin and Miriam were serving in a small village helping a young couple prepare for their wedding. Unfortunately, due to the war, the bride couldn’t get silk for her wedding dress. American aviators, under the charge of Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle, had just completed a harrowing mission over Japan. As the “Doolittle Raiders” ran out of fuel, they parachuted and crash-landed in China. Locals helped the soldiers to safety and Marvin and Miriam gathered up some of the silk parachutes and helped transform them into the bride’s gown.
China continued to be turbulent and dangerous in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Japan invaded China and intense civil war followed. With the lives of missionaries at risk, the mission board ordered the evacuation of all who were serving in southwestern China. The route to safety would mean a bumpy DC-3 flight over the Himalayas into India. Marvin and Miriam were scheduled to fly out on the same plane as another missionary couple, Mr. and Mrs. Graham Hutchinson; however, the plane ran out of seating before everyone was loaded. The childless Hutchinsons noticed that Miriam was pregnant and had not been seated. They voluntarily gave up their seats so Miriam and Marvin could take the first flight out of China. After arriving safely in India, Miriam and Marvin were devastated to learn the following flight crashed into the Himalayas and that Mr. and Mrs. Graham Hutchinson, and everyone on board, had perished.
Miriam soon gave birth to a girl, Rosemary, in India. They returned to China less than two years later to resume their work where Miriam gave birth to a son. They named him Peter Graham Dunn in honor of the sacrifice the Graham Hutchinson family made. Marvin and Miriam continued serving in China until their retirement in 1973.
Peter Graham Dunn journeyed from China to Three Hills, Alberta where, as a young man, he spotted the woman who would eventually become his wife, LeAnna Gerber. LeAnna, from the United States, lived in the world’s largest Amish and Mennonite community. Peter courted LeAnna for nearly 7 years, never seeming to gain her affection. Nearly ready to give up, Peter traveled to Ohio to visit LeAnna and her family during Christmas 1971. Sitting atop the silo on the family farm, LeAnna turned to Peter and asked: “ Are you going to ask to marry me, or what?” And marry her he did.
In 1972, newlyweds Peter and LeAnna Dunn accepted a mission to open a home for runaway girls in New York City. In order to keep the girls occupied, they initiated a small woodworking business. The girls carved plaques and gifts that quickly became popular items at the Greenwich Village outdoor markets. When the mission in New York was complete, the couple bought the woodworking equipment and installed it on their farm in Dalton, Ohio.
Peter spent the next two years building silos for area farmers to support his family, while perfecting his designs and manufacturing techniques during every spare moment. When it came time for Peter to choose a name for his new business, he knew that he wanted to honor the Graham Hutchinson family and, thus, P. Graham Dunn was born. In 1977, he received an order for 3,000 items, allowing him to devote all his energies to the growing business.
In the early days, the work was labor-intensive. LeAnna and Peter were busy raising 4 energetic children and were running the business out of a revamped chicken coup. For twenty years, Peter designed every plaque, gift and each item of furniture while LeAnna managed the company’s finances.
In time, the company began to computerize carving and laser operations and found it could successfully compete with offshore manufacturers. Today P. Graham Dunn serves over 8,000 accounts, most in the U.S., and the remainder in Canada and around the world.
P. Graham Dunn is located in Dalton, Ohio, the same town where Peter proposed to LeAnna. The store is located minutes away from the farm that has housed 7 generations. It quickly outgrew the chicken coup and into a 250,000 square foot manufacturing facility. Tucked into the manufacturing facility is a 20,000 square foot retail store. Guests enter the massive two-story lobby where they are greeted by a grand staircase. Ascending to the second floor store, guests enjoy the visually rich displays and seemingly endless product options. Windows and viewing areas along each side of the store provide a look into the manufacturing plant. Visitors not only get a bird’s eye view of the production process from start to finish, but also get to experience watching both “English” and Amish work side by side.
While much has changed at P. Graham Dunn over the past forty years, much remains the same. The first two employees of the company are still active in the business. Robert Shetler is vice president of manufacturing and Carol Curie works in the shipping department.
In 2019, P. Graham Dunn took on new ownership–it’s employees! The company was sold by Peter and LeAnna to its employees in the form of an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP). All 300+ employees were retained in the transition and eligible employees became owners. We are excited to continue the legacy Peter began, and lead P. Graham Dunn into its next chapter!
P. Graham Dunn still has it roots in family. Peter is often first to arrive in the morning serving as a great coach and visionary. Their four children are grown. Paul Dunn is in Arizona with his wife and 3 children studying to become a physical therapist. Thomas Graham Dunn is lead pastor at a local Mennonite church. Mary Dunn is studying to be a midwife and is currently a nurse at an Amish birthing center. Anna Miriam Knutson, the oldest, married Joe Knutson in 2004. Together they moved from Portland, Oregon, back to Dalton, Ohio, where Joe worked to become president of P. Graham Dunn and Anna worked on her masters in poetry. After a 4-year journey with cancer, Anna passed away in 2013. Joe continues his role as president and lives just steps away from Peter and LeAnna on the family farm.
While we strive to ensure P. Graham Dunn is successful in the competitive manufacturing environment, we will never lose sight of the sacrifice the Graham Hutchinson’s made, the service Marvin and Miriam Dunn contributed in China, and ultimately, our mission to Lift Him Up.