By Nicole S. Daniel
The Birmingham Times
When Erik Henderson purchased a throne chair from Indonesia for a photoshoot about four years ago for his birthday, he didn’t know that would lead to the start of a business. After posting the photos to social media, he received more than 1,000 likes and hundreds of shares.
“People were reaching out to me asking how they could find chairs or rent mine, and that’s how the business started,” he said of Royal Exchange, where customers can rent or purchase custom thrones for any occasion.
Noticing the high demand for the chairs, he found a vendor, purchased more than 20 chairs, and started his business in 2019. Since the launch, Henderson, 40, has garnered the nickname “Throne Kang.”
“That’s what people call me, and that’s what I answer to. I’ve had this name for years,” he said.
Royal Exchange is located at 9433 Parkway East, Suites A and B, on Birmingham’s east side. Henderson’s customers learn of his business solely via social media and word of mouth, and his ultimate goal is to grow a celebrity-based clientele.
“All of my chairs are costumed and centered around customer needs, when you talk about matching the colors of their events,” he said. “I also offer double-seated throne sofas. I specialize in kids’ thrones, as well.”
Without giving a price, Henderson said his thrones cost from “inexpensive to expensive.” “I try to make them affordable to fit the client’s needs,” he added.
Always a Showman
Henderson grew up on the west side of Birmingham near the Elyton community. He and his older brother were raised in a single-parent household by their mother, Maxine Castleberry. His most memorable moment growing up was “seeing how hard my mom worked for the city of Birmingham for 30 years, mostly as a secretary for the [Birmingham Police Department (BPD)],” he said.
“I learned I had to work hard if I wanted something,” he added. Henderson attended West End High School from 1999 to 2001 and was a member of the school’s choir.
“I went all state three years in a row,” he said of his experience with the group and of being named one of the best altos and sopranos hand-picked to participate in a yearly program at the Boutwell Auditorium in downtown Birmingham.
Even in high school, Henderson was a showman. He often hosted pep rallies, class days, talent shows and other events. “I also used to host talent shows with [WBHJ 95.7-FM, 95.7 Jamz], back then,” he said.
When Henderson graduated from high school in 2001, his daughter I’Cys was born the day before his birthday. “I had to choose to either go to school or work, and I chose to work,” he said.
Henderson moved to Georgia and began with an engineering company, where he worked on underground sewer pipes. After three years in that position, his mother told him about a correctional officer (CO) position with the Birmingham City Jail.
Asked what made him transition into law enforcement as a CO and stay in the field for almost 20 years in the city, Henderson said, “I’ve been able to be a people person and lend a helping hand to strangers.”
After working as a CO for four years, Henderson joined the police academy in 2011. One of his favorite parts about becoming a BPD officer is “being able to build a relationship between the police and the community.”
“A lot of people have one perspective about police officers, and they really don’t trust them. I want to be that one percent to build their trust,” he said. “A lot of people know me, and they respect me and my position, whether it’s family or friends.”
In 2022, Henderson was named officer of the year and earned the Civic Leadership Award from the Jefferson County Millennial Democrats. In 2014, he was named an Outstanding African American by the NAACP Metro Birmingham Branch.
The best advice Henderson ever received was from his grandfather, who told him, “When you do right, wrong won’t follow you,” and that advice has guided him for the 16 years he’s served as a patrol officer in the West Precinct.
Besides patrolling, Henderson works as an on-duty police officer when celebrities come to Birmingham.
“I’m responsible for making sure the artist is safe from the time they arrive at the venue until they leave,” he said, adding that he plans to start a private security business for celebrities when he retires—in addition to focusing on Royal Exchange.
Even before launching Royal Exchange, Henderson had a business mindset. Almost 20 years ago, he enrolled at Lawson State Community College (LSCC) to pursue a degree in business management.
“I took a class here and there, but working was my top priority. When I became overwhelmed, I would withdraw to maintain my GPA,” said the BPD officer, who earned an associate degree in business management from LSCC in May.
“I graduated in the honor society and magna cum laude,” he said. “I didn’t want to lose that, so that’s why I would withdraw instead of failing.”
As a police officer and businessman, Henderson offers the following advice to young people, “Stay focused and keep pushing toward your goals in life.”
To decompress from working and delivering thrones all over the city, Henderson loves to travel. His most memorable vacation was to the Dominican Republic three years ago. “It was so peaceful,” he said.
This month, Henderson is heading to Dubai, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“I’m looking forward to seeing their culture and embracing how they live,” he said. “The pictures [I’ve seen] are beautiful.”
To learn more about Royal Exchange, visit the Royal Exchange Virtual Showroom, or rent a throne, visit thronekang.com.