MCCONNELLSVILLE, N.Y. – Case goods and upholstery manufacturer Harden Furniture has suspended its operations while new ownership continues to negotiate with a private equity firm to acquire various assets of the company including product inventory.
Production was suspended on May 29, immediately following Memorial Day weekend. The administrative and sales staff was asked not to return to work starting June 18. The move affects an estimated 100 workers, 90% of which are in production and the rest in administration and sales.
In addition, company CEO Greg Harden, was terminated just over two weeks ago. Harden was a fifth generation executive of the family owned furniture manufacturer that has been in business since 1844, making it one of the oldest – if not the oldest – furniture manufacturers in the U.S.
Doug Cleveland, Harden national sales manager, told Furniture Today that the company is telling dealers that operations have been suspended while the negotiations continue between Walter Haskett, who owns Harden Furniture LLC, and Big Shoulders Capital.
The assets, including product inventory and accounts receivables, are owned by Big Shoulders Capital, which acquired this part of the company during an auction held in late January.
Haskett declined to comment for this story as a deal was being worked out with Big Shoulders. Greg Harden, who owns the real estate and is leasing it back to the company, also declined to comment other than to say that the company can return to the facilities to resume production any time it is free to do so.
In the meantime, Cleveland said that he has been fielding calls from dealers that have pending orders and are wondering how to proceed.
“What we have been saying is that production has been suspended,” he told Furniture Today. “We hope to resume production soon. There is some question about the inventory values and the ownership of the inventory. Walter (Haskett) didn’t want anything moving while that was being negotiated.
“We are giving honest answers about what has been built already and how to go about moving forward,” he continued, noting that he can’t say when negotiations are expected to be complete.
He did note, however, that the employees, many of whom have been working for Harden for years, if not generations, remain hopeful for a resolution. He said that retailers, also many of them doing business with Harden for years, are also hopeful.
“It is an iconic brand, and we don’t want to lose it either,” Cleveland said. “It is also an employer here in our community, so it means a lot to us. Our attitude is to try to get positive results here, and we are hopeful that is going to happen.”
Jeff Harris, president and CEO of Top 100 Company Furnitureland South in Jamestown, N.C., also remains hopeful. He said his store has been doing business with Harden for about 50 years.
“I have grown to have tremendous respect for Greg Harden and his family for the unbelievable legacy Harden Furniture has had in our industry,” Harris said. “I am definitely sad to see he is no longer involved, … but we are very eager to see if the new owners can resurrect the company.”