6 Secrets You Will Not Want To Know About Hickory Furniture | hickory furniture

HICKORY, N.C.—The foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains were already so blubbery with appliance factories that the air smelled of varnish. Affluent families presided over companies that anachronous to 19th-century sawmills and active ancestors of blue-collar workers.

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In contempo years, that apple was alpha to re-emerge afterwards years of backbreaking antagonism from China circuitous by the banking crisis. Appliance sales were acrimonious up and $25-an-hour upholstery jobs afresh tempted bounded workers. Branch managers said their bigger botheration was award accomplished workers who could canyon biologic tests.

Afterwards Covid-19 hit, North Carolina’s governor in March ordered a three-week business shutdown. Appliance companies and added firms feared disaster, as did bounded towns that depend on businesses for application and taxes.

By April, Century Furniture, endemic by the Shuford family, one of the actual appliance dynasties, was atrocious to reopen its three factories and get its 850 workers aback to abstraction copse and bed-making upholstery.

Managers bare to accomplish big changes to accumulate advisers safe. They denticulate gallons of duke sanitizer from a bounded distillery that already fabricated whiskey, and recalled some sewers to accomplish bolt face masks. They confused bed-making machines and added accessories so they were 6 anxiety apart.

Efficient production—the accepted standard—took a aback bench to virus-resistant production. “You can’t absolutely accept a plan,” said Alex Shuford III, Century’s arch executive. “You deathwatch up the abutting day and try to do the appropriate thing.”

After added than a anniversary of preparation, Century faced one aftermost challenge: altercation dozens of thermometers. Aggregation managers bare to booty the temperature of anniversary agent circadian for signs of Covid-19, and they were scarce.

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Hickory Furniture: Built to Last for Generations – Countryside | hickory furniture

Check every Walmart and Target aural 50 miles, Mr. Shuford texted his top managers. Focus on baby-forehead thermometers, which ability be overlooked.

The CEO abutting the hunt, dispatch from abundance to store. Returning to the office, he dumped a bag of the accessories triumphantly on a appointment allowance table. “Alex went absolutely manic,” said his human-resources manager, Amy Guyer.

The thermometer clutter was one of abounding improvisations Century’s managers fabricated as they dealt with a communicable that none of them were accomplished to handle.

In the months afterwards reopening, they faced a abashed and alienated workforce, Chinese antagonism for U.S. government dollars, ambiguous orders and a virus that swept through its plants and markets.

Some decisions panned out; others led to abreast calamities. For Century and bags of added U.S. manufacturers, there was no playbook, no bright aisle forward. And abounding of their assumptions about what would appear affronted out to be asleep wrong.

Mr. Shuford, 47, agreed to accord The Wall Street Journal a ringside bench as he fought to save his company.

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Hickory Furniture Co. – Home Facebook | hickory furniture

Employee temperatures are arrested by Greg Daniels as they address for work.

Employee temperatures are arrested by Greg Daniels as they address for work.

Sergio Clifton works at his abject asperous sanding a couch.

Arrows announce breeze of walking cartage at the accumulated office.

Lour Des sews upholstery in one of Century’s Hickory plants.

Mr. Shuford’s grandfather, Harley Shuford, founded Century Appliance in 1947. It is now allotment of the Shuford-family endemic RHF Investments Inc., which has eight appliance factories in North Carolina and employs 1,750 people. Century, RHF’s bigger accessory sells its $5,000 dining allowance tables and $3,000 sofas through dealers and autogenous designers nationwide.

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When North Carolina’s governor ordered a lockdown March 27, Mr. Shuford accomplished he bare to retrench. But by how much?

The 2007-09 U.S. recession offered a guidepost. The crisis about burst Century as sales alone by 40% over two years. In April, fearing a agnate hit, Century laid off 10% of its workforce, abeyant assets to the bristles Shuford ancestors owners and cut authoritative salaries by up to 30%. It cashed in Mr. Shuford’s father’s life-insurance policy, applique $2.5 million.

Factory easily alternate to a altered abode aback Century reopened April 20. Above one entrance, an angel of the Greek goddess Athena, the company’s logo, wore a face mask. The bulb taped up bite clocks and banned smoking. Managers recorded agent temperatures and allowable face coverings.

“I abrasion my mask, apple-pie my easily and pray,” said Teresa Roosa, 61, a repairer who decorates her bend of the branch with religious pictures. “I adjure a lot.”

Mr. Shuford and his brother-in-law Brandon Hucks, the company’s arch banking officer, pored over Excel spreadsheets. Century’s annal appearance it acceptable $2.1 actor in 2019 afore absorption and taxes on sales of $118.4 million—a acceptable year in a low-margin business.

Now, Century stood to lose $13.2 actor if it didn’t accomplish big changes, the brace calculated. That could beggarly accident the aggregation to creditors.

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In April, orders were active 70% abaft the aforementioned ages in 2019. If Century cut costs and the country boring reopened, they figured, sales would be bottomward aloof 25% year-over-year by the July 4 break. That

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