You can’t enter the spaciously tidy conference room at Luraco Technologies in northeast Arlington and not notice The Wall. Framed patents line it like wallpaper, up and down, side by side, one after another, like a sort of Wall of Fame. In some ways it’s just that. Not that you probably know what Luraco is famous for.
Think massage chairs.
We’re not talking those recliner-types on the second floor of Parks Mall where weary shoppers plop down for a quick pick me up.
Luraco, founded and run by brothers Tom and Kevin Le, UT Arlington-educated electrical engineers (Tom has a master’s, Kevin a Ph.D.) has been around for more than 17 years, finding a nice financial footing by nailing U.S. government contracts for the Blackhawk and Apache helicopters and manufacturing specialized seats for the manicure/pedicure industry.
Their first contracts, though, were from nail salons where they came up with an air extractor to rid the salons of those asphyxiating nail polish fumes.
“That product brought Luraco into the commercial sector,” Tom Le says of the air extractor. “We realized, OK, wow, we can do this.”
Around 2011, the Le brothers shifted their attention to massage chairs, and it’s paying off bigtime. High-end, all-encompassing, with scans to figure out what your body actually needs, are the Bentleys of massage chairs.
In other words, “It’s not just jiggling bodies,” says Robyn Readicker, Luraco’s International Sales and Marketing Manager. “There are a lot of massage chairs out there, but ours are designed for pressure points and based on eastern medicine.”
Cisco Systems in San Jose use them for their employees, VA hospitals for their patients, universities for their students.
Yet here’s what sets Luraco apart: their chairs are researched, developed and assembled on American soil.
Surprised? I was. China’s imports dominate the market so companies don’t even bother. Tom Le says because China makes its chairs so cheaply they can undercut the competition in price.
“When we make the product here, our costs are higher, and that makes it hard to compete with those import chairs,” he says. “But we make it by being different.”
Luraco is different because Tom and Kevin are.
I call them brilliant survivors.
The Le family arrived in the United States from Vietnam in 1995 armed with $200 and little English. They settled in Arlington because it was the only place in the country where they had a relative.
The family wanted to leave Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975. Their father was jailed for seven years in a harsh prison camp by the North Vietnamese in retaliation for helping the U.S. military during the Vietnam conflict.
“It made life difficult for us but didn’t break us,” Tom Le says. Luraco Corporation, by the way, is named after Lucy and Sara, Tom and Kevin’s daughters, respectively. (Lu from Lucy, Ra from Sara, and Co from Corporation).
Tom and Kevin knew they wanted to manufacture something in the U.S.
“Made in the USA means something,” Tom Le says. “It means quality of the product. That’s what we wanted.”
That’s what they have.
Luraco owns 43 patents in the U.S. and Canada. Two of those involve massage chairs, which continue to evolve. Luraco’s chairs are hailed for their physiological effects on the body and spirit.
When a professor of health at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, plopped more than 500 students and faculty into Luraco’s iRobotics 7 massage chair for 15 minutes, blood pressure, heart rate and stress levels all improved. It even shows to have an impact on one’s physical pain related to stress.
“When I came here I dreamed that one day I had a factory where I can build a product here, with quality,” Tom Le says. “We never thought we’d be involved in manufacturing massage chairs. But here we are.”