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Linwood to Supply Timberlake Goods to Lexington

By Home Furnishings Business in on March 2006 By Powell Slaughter

Lexington Home Brands has lined up domestic production for the original The World of Bob Timberlake case goods through Linwood Furniture, a new company in a familiar location.

The announcement was made Monday afternoon.

On March 1, Linwood acquired Lexington's former Plant Number Two, just south of Lexington, N.C., where it will produce the Timberlake goods. The company plans to immediately hire around 50 workers. The city of Lexington and Davidson County are supporting the effort with an economic incentive package, and Linwood will invest more than $5 million in capital and machinery.

The move keeps the manufacturing of Timberlake's core line in the North Carolina artist's hometown, and while the brand now includes goods made overseas, he's always insisted that his original The World of Bob Timberlake remain domestically made. Now, production will continue in a plant already experienced in producing the line.

"In my mind, there is no comparison to the high quality and craftsmanship of the American worker," Timberlake said. "If there was ever a product that deserved to be produced here in America, The World of Bob Timberlake certainly qualifies. I am so proud and pleased that this situation worked out well for all concerned. This is a dream come true for me and our community."

Linwood Furniture emerged from the longtime friendship between Timberlake and Jim Kepley, owner of lumber supplier Kepley-Frank Hardwoods. After LHB announced the closing of Plant Two last October, the company's last domestic case goods factory, Kepley approached Lexington about purchasing the facility for expansion of his lumber-drying operation. Those negotiations led to a discussion of the possibility of Kepley's company manufacturing The World of Bob Timberlake furniture line. Kepley's subsequent consultation with Timberlake led to the formation of Linwood Furniture Inc.

"This partnership and opportunity just seemed natural to me," said Kepley. "We formed Linwood because my family and company have a history with the furniture industry in Lexington, just as Bob and his family do. With the support of Lexington Home Brands, our new partnership gives all three of us a chance to continue this area's heritage while providing jobs for many skilled workers in our community."

"It is not very often in your career you get to see passion, commitment and values come together in one place," said Bob Stec, chairman and CEO of LHB.

Kepley's and Timberlake's collaboration, "is an opportunity to take ideas, passion and excellence and apply them in a way that competes in a global economy," Stec said.

In addition to some 50 immediate hires, Linwood anticipates adding as many as 200 workers in the next 18 months to operate the plant. The 550,000-square-foot factory, which closed Dec. 10, produced $60 million wholesale of furniture annually when it was operating at full capacity under Lexington's ownership.

While Stec said production is expected to ramp up in about 30 days, Kepley said the plant would be operational on Tuesday, with 27 people initially staffed for lumber cutting.

Jerry Epperson, industry analyst and managing director with Mann, Armistead & Epperson, said Timberlake's dedication to maintaining his namesake line's domestic component is a rarity in furniture.

"It takes someone with conviction and an appreciation for heritage to do what Timberlake has," Epperson said in a statement issued Monday. "Very few people take a stand like he has. He feels very strongly about his community, and it adds to my respect for Bob. I wish there were more of him out there. He is a very singular individual."

Timberlake said his original furniture collection was born of American craftsmanship and deserves to continue to be manufactured by American workers.

"I am excited and honored to be working with Kepley-Frank Hardwood Co. and Lexington Home Brands to continue the legacy of Plant Number Two here in Lexington," he said. "This is not only important for our community but also means a great deal personally to my family. My family has been in the furniture business here in Lexington for generations. This is home. This is our history."

The speakers at Monday's press conference noted that Linwood Furniture already has a leg up in terms of efficiency. As Lexington Home Brand's last domestic case goods plant, the Linwood facility received the best equipment and workers from other LHB plants as domestic production consolidated.

"We don't have to work on retooling, and we don't have to work on relearning the finishes," Timberlake said. "These are folks we're hiring who know what we want to do."

Kepley noted that Linwood Furniture is a vertically-integrated operation.

"I'm a supplier of hardwood lumber," Kepley said. "So we have a timber company and we have a factory and we have the person whose thoughts and designs are behind the product. And through (Lexington) Home Brands, we also have the marketer."

In addition to serving as the exclusive domestic source for LHB's World of Bob Timberlake line, Linwood Furniture also will provide contract manufacturing for other furniture companies.

King Koil's Diamonstein, Carpenter Co.'s Malechek Honored

By Home Furnishings Business in on March 2006

he International Sleep Products Association presented King Koil's Richard Diamonstein with an award Friday for his exemplary service to the bedding industry, while Carpenter Co.'s Ed Malechek took home similar honors for his work in the mattress field.

Diamonstein, the executive vice president of King Koil Mid-Atlantic, earned the Russell L. Abolt Exceptional Service Award, an honor given to someone who displays the highest level of career devotion to better the bedding industry.

"Richard Diamonstein is an outstanding executive, an outstanding ISPA member and an outstanding person," David Orders, of Park Place Corporation and ISPA immediate past chair, said in a ISPA release. "He is, in fact, one of the great leaders of our industry."

Malechek, the executive vice president of Carpenter Co., grabbed the Robert MacMorran Memorial Award, an honor by the Suppliers Council to recognize outstanding service to the mattress industry.

"Ed has worked tirelessly to raise public awareness of better sleep through better mattresses," said Orders. "He truly embodies the spirit of partnership in the bedding industry."

Pier 1 to Present at Investor Conference

By Home Furnishings Business in on March 2006 Pier 1 Imports will participate in next week's Raymond James Institutional Investors Conference.

Cary Turner, executive vice president and chief financial officer of the Fort Worth, Texas-based retailer, is scheduled to give a presentation Tuesday. The presentation will be broadcast live beginning at 7:30 a.m. Eastern time.

The live Web cast will be available on the company's Web site through its investor relations page at

Hodges retires from Master Design

By Home Furnishings Business in on March 2006 Gene Hodges has retired as president of case goods supplier Master Design effective March 1.

A replacement has not yet been named. In the interim, Chester Lee, president of Test Rite USA, will take over Hodges responsibilities. Master Design is a subsidiary of Test Rite Products Corp.

"We appreciate the tremendous effort and the contribution Gene has made to the company over the years," Lee said. "He is well-respected in the industry and has always been highly regarded at Test Rite. We wish him good fortune and continued success in the future."

In a release, the company said Master Design will move forward, continuing in partnership with Test Rite and the commitment to provide excellence to its customers.

"We will be proactive in this perpetually changing industry and improve our effectiveness to compete," Lee said. "We will always respond to the ever-changing global arena from our customers to our suppliers and to the end consumers."

Havertys Releases February Sales

By Home Furnishings Business in on March 2006 Atlanta-based Havertys same-store sales for February dropped 2.6 percent from the same month last year.

The retailer also said monthly sales dropped 1.1 percent to $67.5 million for February, compared to $68.2 million during February 2005.

The company's comparable-store sales do not includes stores or locations opened, closed or otherwise non-comparable during the last 12 months. Sales for the first two months of this year decreased 0.1 percent to $134.3 million compared with $134.4 million last year.

Same-store sales dropped 1.4 percent for the first two months of the year compared with last year.

"Sales were generally soft for February 2006 versus the very good 6.1 percent increase in comparable-store sales we had a year ago," said Clarence Smith, president and chief executive officer. "We are pleased that our gross profit margins have continued improving in the last few months. Our attention is also on sales growth and we are intensifying our efforts to generate a better top-line performance."

Havertys has 118 showrooms in 17 states in the Southern and Midwestern regions selling quality middle- to upper-middle priced product.
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