NEW ALBANY – After several recent announcements that touted good news about furniture jobs, a big dose of bad news hit Tuesday.
New Albany-based Caye Home Furnishings said that within 90 days, it will close what once was world’s largest upholstered furniture manufacturing plant and a landmark in Northeast Mississippi’s furniture history.
Reports indicate some 600 people will be out of work.
The company also has two manufacturing facilities in North Carolina and one in Florida.
Wayne Stewart, Caye’s president and CFO, said in a press release that the company would “wind down operations at all of its locations over the next 60 to 90 days” but did not provide additional details.
In September, Caye announced it had grown to 165 employees in its Taylorsville, N.C., plant, and had another 52 workers at its Star, N.C., plant. Caye also has a plant in Tampa, Fla., but it’s not clear how many are employed there.
Ken Pruett, president of the Mississippi Furniture Association, said he was saddened by the news.
“While the industry has been making big headlines with expansions and new jobs, the reality is that we’re not out of the woods yet,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of smaller companies who are struggling, and in this case, a well-established company struggling, too. So while we took a step forward with those expansions, we just took two steps back with this news.”
Last week, another New Albany furniture manufacturer, Albany Industries, said it was expanding and opening a plant in Ripley, where it would employ 200 workers. Two weeks ago, Pontotoc-based Southern Motion said it was adding 200 employees within two years and could add as many as 400 within five years.
But those two pieces of good news were offset by Caye’s announcement.
Stewart said in the release that “a perfect storm of economic and supply chain events came together this spring, culminating in this decision. Attempts were made to find someone to purchase the company and the management team made a bid to purchase the company, but these efforts have proven this far to be unsuccessful.”
Employees were notified Tuesday about the layoffs, which will continue at all locations over the time period, Stewart said.
“We deeply regret the impact this will have on our employees and the communities in which we operate.”
Gloria Neal, a spokeswoman with the Mississippi Department of Employment Security, said agency representatives will meet with company officials next week to come up with a plan to help displaced workers.
The closing of the plant marks the end of an era. At one time, the facility was the largest upholstered furniture manufacturing plant in the world.
Caye acquired the then-Stratford Furniture Co. in 2002. It was under the Stratford name that Morris Futorian began producing furniture in New Albany in 1948.
Futorian, a Ukrainian native, moved his furniture operations from Chicago to New Albany. And it’s Futorian who is credited for kick-starting the upholstered furniture manufacturing industry in Northeast Mississippi, where he introduced mass production techniques he modeled after Detroit automakers.
He opened the Stratford Furniture Co. in New Albany in September 1948. By 1969, the company had expanded nine times and had become the largest upholstered furniture plant in the world at 625,000 square feet. It would eventually double in size.
At its peak, Stratford employed more than 2,000 people in New Albany. Through the years, it also employed thousands more at plants in Okolona, Eupora, Pontotoc and briefly in Tupelo and Guntown. Futorian’s Stratolounger recliner plant in Okolona was once the world’s largest chair plant.
Futorian sold his furniture holdings in 1964, but maintained a role until his retirement in 1981.
Pruett said that Stratford had closed its New Albany plant in the 1990s and reopened after another company bought the remaining assets.
“It’s a shame that we’re seeing it closed once again,” he said. “I know a lot of good people who work there, and I was hoping there was some way they could keep it open.”
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal