By Dennis Seid
SMITHVILLE – Nearly three years after a devastating tornado tore through this small Monroe County community, Smithville still finds itself in recovery mode.
On Friday, it made a big stride forward with the announcement that a start-up furniture company would fill an empty space once occupied by the city’s largest employer.
Furniture industry veterans Lyle Harris and Larry Todd have partnered to create Behold Home, which will build motion furniture.
Smithville, said company president and CEO Harris, “felt like home.”
After looking at other sites, Harris said choosing Smithville “was an easy decision.”
The company, expected to begin production in June, will fill the facility most recently occupied by TownHouse Home Furnishings.
Behold Home will initially employ 40, but hopes to grow to at least 80 employees within three years.
“Words can’t explain how I feel,” said Mayor Gregg Kennedy. “We’ve had our share of ups and downs over the years, and we’re so thankful to have them come here.”
Behold Home bought two buildings on Industrial Drive that once belonged to TownHouse, covering 133,000 total square feet. It also has options on land for future expansion.
At its peak, TownHouse employed 150. Like most of the businesses in Smithville that fateful day three years ago, it was all but wiped away. The company made a small comeback in Mantachie and returned to Smithville, only to close late last year.
Harris, the former president of American Furniture and Todd, a co-founder of Southern Motion, joined forces with Bo Russell, a Tupelo accountant and attorney, to form Behold Home.
The Mississippi Development Authority provided a $120,000 grant for facility improvements, and Three Rivers Planning and Development District provided $20,000 for workforce training.
Behold Home isn’t manufacturing yet, but it has made some prototypes to show potential customers.
Behold will initially manufacture motion furniture (reclining chairs, sofas and sectionals) but plans to expand into stationary furniture down the road, Todd said.
The company aims to find a niche in the mid-priced category, and Harris is headed to High Point, N.C., to network at its furniture market this week. He said Behold will consider all markets, which includes Tupelo.
“Our focus is fine quality and value,” Harris said. “We know there’s a lot of competition, but we have the people to make our mark in the industry.”