P. Graham Dunn is a family owned and operated business that opened its doors in 1976. However the series of events that lead to this business began much earlier. It’s difficult to pick a time or place to begin, but we will try to do just that. The time is the 1940’s and the place is a politically unstable China. Peter Dunn’s parents, Marvin and Miriam Dunn, dedicated nearly their entire lives to work in China serving China Inland Missions, a mission founded by Hudson Taylor. Each began serving independently, and it was in China that they met and were married. Miriam kept a memoir of her experiences as a child of missionaries growing up in China herself. It is Peter’s goal to one day have these memories published and shared. Marvin and Miriam continued serving until their retirement in 1973.
During World War II, Marvin and Miriam were serving in a small village helping a young couple prepare for their wedding ceremony. Unfortunately due to the war, the bride was having difficulty obtaining silk for her wedding dress. Eventually some silk was rounded up for the dress from a most unusual source. The wedding dress was made from silk parachutes of American aviators who had just finished a near suicide mission over Japan. The man in charge of the operation was none other than Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle.
China was a very turbulent and dangerous place in the 40’s and 50’s for foreigners. In 1944 Mr. and Mrs. Graham Hutchinson were led to join the China Inland Mission. During these years of service, Japan invaded China and the invasion was followed by intense civil war. This put the lives of missionaries at risk. The mission board ordered the evacuation of all who were serving in southwestern China. This included the Graham Hutchinson’s and also Marvin and Miriam Dunn. The route to safety was a bumpy flight on a DC-3 over the Himalayas into India. The Graham Hutchinson’s were scheduled to fly out on the same plane as the Dunn’s. However, the plane ran out of seating before everyone was loaded. The childless Hutchinson’s noticed that Miriam was obviously 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 everyone on board perished.
Miriam gave birth to Peter’s older sister Rosemary in India. After returning to China less than two years later to resume their work, Miriam gave birth to a son. She named him Peter Graham Dunn in recognition of the sacrifice the Graham Hutchinson’s made. Later when Peter chose a name for his new business, it was important to emphasize Graham. Finally, when Peter and his wife LeAnna had their son Thomas, they extended this recognition by naming him Thomas Graham Dunn.
Peter’s journey from China to the world’s largest Amish and Mennonite community took him through Three Hills, Alberta. It was there while Peter was a young man that he spotted the young lady who would later become his wife, LeAnna Gerber, a Mennonite from the United States. Peter courted LeAnna for nearly 7 years, never seeming to gain her affection. While nearly ready to give up, Peter traveled to Ohio to visit LeAnna and her family over the Christmas holidays of 1971. Sitting atop the silo on the family farm, LeAnna turned to Peter and asked if he was going to ask to marry her, or what! And marry her he did.
In 1972, newlyweds Peter and LeAnna Dunn accepted a mission from their church 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 out-door markets in Greenwich Village. 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. In 1977, he received an order for 3,000 items, allowing him to devote all his energies to his growing business. For the next twenty years, he designed every plaque, gift and each item of furniture. Today, a diverse group of employees contributes to the design process, resulting in a healthier company and broader market appeal.
In the early days, the work was labor-intensive. In time, the company began to computerize carving and laser operations and found it could compete successfully with offshore manufacturers. Today P. Graham Dunn serves over 4,000 accounts, most in the U.S., and the remainder in Canada and around the world.
P. Graham Dunn is located in Dalton, Ohio operating in a 140,000 square foot manufacturing facility. Inside the facility is an 18,000 square foot retail store and viewing gallery. Guests enter the massive two-story lobby where oversized plaques adorn the walls, scripture is carved into the crown molding, and where they’ll find one of Ohio’s largest indoor murals. Ascending to the second floor store, windows along each side give visitors a bird’s eye view of the production process from start to finish. Lasers in the store are available for custom engraved gifts on the spot. Additionally services are available to bring your own custom ideas to life. And if that wasn’t enough bargain shoppers flock to the Factory Outlet where we constantly add overstocked, scratch & dent, prototype, discontinued, and unfinished merchandise.
P. Graham Dunn still has it roots in family. LeAnna relinquished her financial role and now helps pick out scripture for prints while Peter, semi retired, 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 a competitive manufacturing environment, we will never lose sight of the sacrifice the Graham Hutchinson’s made, for the service Peter’s parents contributed to China, and ultimately our mission to Lift Him Up.