ORLEANS – For 80 years, Ethan Allen manufacturing has been producing high quality home furnishings. Yesterday company officials kicked off their celebration on the historic milestone by touring the plants and meeting with employees in Beecher Falls and Orleans. Today CEO Farooq Kathwari and Regional Operations Manager Mike Worth will ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange.
During a private luncheon, Kathwari said Ethan Allen survived the Great Depression and the Great Recession. “Those are two very important time periods,” said Kathwari.
During the past 80 years, the company reinvented itself and today it manufactures mad-to-order pieces that ship all over the world. That means each piece that leaves the plant has an owner. The company personalizes each item by putting the customer’s name on the barcode. Ethan Allen also makes home products like lamps.
Company officials eliminated the second shift at the plant. It is producing more volume under one shift then when it was running two.
Profit margins are not where they should be, but Kathwari said officials can’t look at that alone. The company employs 360 workers in Orleans and another 104 in Beecher Falls.
“If we only look at profitability, we’d close everything up and that’s not the right thing to do,” Kathwari said.
High energy costs are hurting the company. Kathwari said energy costs in Vermont are twice as much as in North Carolina and are four times more than offshore. However, Kathwari is pleased the Vermont plants are getting close to being oil free. The company also pays more taxes in the United States than it does anywhere else in the industrial world. Kathwari said the company pays for employees’ healthcare, but that model may somewhat change next year.
Speaking to the more than 300 employees, Kathwari said three or four years ago, times were tough. “It was the start of the Great Recession,” he said. “We had to make a lot of tough decisions and also good decisions and one of them was to maintain a strong presence in Orleans.”
Kathwari said the Orleans plant produces some of the best products in the country. He also said he told officials at the Orleans plant to give merit increases to employees. Kathwari also said the employees will start making products to ship to China. Ethan Allen will launch a new line, American Colors, to customers, which includes a television commercial campaign to begin early next month, Kathwari said.
After his presentation, Kathwari presented company books traditionally given out to customers.