By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
SMITHVILLE – Townhouse Home Furnishings’ expansion plans accelerated at 3:47 p.m. one week ago today.
The promotional stationary furniture company – the town’s largest employer with 150 workers – saw two of its three buildings destroyed by the tornado that leveled scores of homes and businesses.
It was already on the fast-track for growth. The company had added workers in Smithville as well as its Madison House division in Amory to accommodate strong sales in the past year or so, and company officials had looked at finding another facility later this year.
“The tornado forced us to move things up. The expansion took care of itself,” said Townhouse’s founder and president, Jeremy Lafayette.
While the warehouse attached to the manufacturing area of the Smithville plant survived, the Federal Emergency Management Agency took over the facility to set up its headquarters.
Townhouse found what Lafayette called a “perfect” location in Mantachie at the former PeopLoungers plant to transfer its inventory and to set up operations.
On Tuesday, Lafayette and other company officials said they hoped to have production lines up and running again by Monday in Mantachie, and they invited all 150 workers back.
“You are who we’re all about,” Lafayette told some 100 of them at the Monroe Government Complex. “We’ve got to get you back to work.”
The Mantachie building allows Townhouse to have everything under one roof, unlike its Smithville location.
But, Lafayette said, Townhouse would not abandon Smithville.
“The move to Mantachie is a permanent move, but we’re going to have 120 to 150 people at Madison House, 150 in Mantachie – and 150 in Smithville,” Lafayette said, bringing smiles from the gathering.
Townhouse Chief Financial Officer Tony Watson said the company will rebuild its Smithville plant in six to 12 months.
Lafayette said he has no intention of leaving Smithville behind and would make every effort to get Townhouse operating as soon as possible.
“We’re dedicating ourselves to two different communities,” he said. “Mantachie will come first, but Smithville we are not going to leave. We’re going to be bigger and better.”
For Leeia Ray, who’s worked in the company’s sewing department for a year, the news couldn’t have been better.
“I think it’s awesome because Smithville really needs us,” she said.
Having also lost her home to the tornado, Ray said going back to work was a relief.
“There’s a lot going through my mind, but this is something we’ve all been waiting for,” she said.
And Chrissy Willis, who works with Ray, couldn’t have been happier either.
“To see everybody, that’s a big thing,” she said, sharing hugs and laughs with co-workers. “And I’d follow this company anywhere. They’re good people to work for and good people to work with.”
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.