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Ruff Resigns, Replacement Sought

By Home Furnishings Business in on January 2006 by Powell Slaughter

The North Carolina Department of Commerce is moving fast to find a replacement for Jeremy Ruff, who left his position as director of the Furniture Enterprise Office in High Point last week to join wood furniture manufacturer Woodmarc as its CEO.

Ruff spent the past year-and-a-half running the FEO, which promotes the export of furniture from companies with significant presence in North Carolina.

Peter Cunningham, director of the NCDOC's International Trade Division, said he's seeking an individual with the kind of experience Ruff brought to the table. Ruff's career includes serving as CEO of the Powell Co. and as president of Lane Furniture's wood division.

"He made such a big contribution, even in the short time he was here, to our efforts to help North Carolina companies compete in a global environment, and we wish Jeremy all the best," said Cunningham.

In addition to supporting the FEO's trade function, he added that Ruff's experience and contacts brought a valuable consulting aspect to the job.

"I'm moving quickly to fill the position, and ideally we'll have someone in place in time for April market," Cunningham said. "We're looking for someone with senior management experience in the furniture industry with the contacts and ability to work closely with furniture companies."

The position, listed as economic developer, has been posted under the Department of Commerce heading on the N.C. state personnel office's Web site.

Applications are being accepted through next week.

Hitchcock Begins to Liquidate Inventory

By Home Furnishings Business in on January 2006 by Powell Slaughter

Hitchcock Chair Co., a venerable manufacturer of solid wood case goods and occasional furniture that went up for sale during April market, will close its four Hitchcock Fine Home Furnishings retail stores in Connecticut.

The New Hartford, Conn.-based company, founded in 1825, will hold going-out-of-business sales at locations in Glastonbury, Orange, Riverton and Wilton.

"Those sales start today, and we'll run that process as long as it takes to liquidate inventory," Ronald Coleman, Hitchcock's president and CEO said Thursday.

The company continues to seek a buyer for the brand itself, and Coleman said he's received hundreds of inquiries. The move to sell Hitchcock began when Robin Faccenda, owner of the business, decided to retire last fall.

"We have several parties who are very interested, and it's a process of working with the state of Connecticut and the potential buyers to work out what's best for the community and employees," he said. "There are people out of state who are interested, but our best-case result is to keep it in the state so we can both continue the brand, and also retain jobs here."

Hitchcock has a 110,000-square-foot factory in New Hartford, Conn. The retail locations include its flagship factory store in Riverton. The plant recently opened a new finishing facility for the line, which features solid Northeastern hardwoods including cherry, hard rock maple and red maple.

Coleman said production continues at the factory.

"We're continuing to operate and take orders from our dealers, and our backlogs are actually pretty strong right now," he said.

Greenbaum Takes Post at Jeffco

By Home Furnishings Business in on January 2006 Industry veteran Gary Greenbaum has been named to the new position of vice president of marketing and merchandising for high-end home furnishings producer Jeffco Furniture.

In his new role, Greenbaum is responsible for developing the company's global marketing and merchandising efforts.

Greenbaum has more than 25 years of home furnishings retail, sales and brand development experience. Most recently, Greenbaum was vice president of retail and brand development for Natuzzi Americas. He left the leather producer in October.

In addition to Natuzzi, Greenbaum has held various senior executive positions with Sherrill Furniture Co. and Hendricks Furniture Group. He is also part of the family who owned and operated 11-store Wayside Furniture in Milford, Conn.

"We are particularly pleased to have Gary join our management team," said Jeffrey Gaynor, Jeffco president. "His appreciation for the uniqueness of our products and understanding of what it takes to create extraordinary furnishings at extraordinary value make him a perfect fit for our organization."

Paula Gaynor, Jeffco co-owner, said the timing of Greenbaum's joining is perfect as the company moves to add contemporary products to its mix.

Jeffco, a family-owned company, was established in 1969. In addition to its updated, classic designs, the company manufactures the J. Peterman Collection through a licensing agreement.

Google Sits Atop Branding Poll

By Home Furnishings Business in on January 2006 Would it be difficult to imagine Google furniture in our future?

Don't laugh too hard -- remember Thomas Kinkade, Norman Rockwell, Bill Blass?

The home furnishings business has seen its share of efforts to cash in on brand names with a perceived draw, so why should a search engine be any different?

This week, Google retook first place in a 2005 global poll of the world's most influential brands compiled by online branding magazine brandchannel.com.

The latest survey was compiled from votes from 2,528 branding professionals and students responding to the question: "Which brand had the most impact on our lives in 2005?"

Google, the Internet search engine which has expanded regionally and moved into new markets, last topped the poll in 2003, and reclaimed its top slot from Apple Computer, which came in second this year.

The poll does not take account of economic brand value, which regularly puts Coca-Cola Co. in first place, and disregards a brand's positive or negative public perception (Arabic-language television news network Al-Jazeera was a top finisher last year).

Brandchannel also breaks down results by region. In North America, the top three brands are Apple, Google and Starbucks Coffee Co. The list largely reflects global results. The poll's fourth- and fifth-place finishers in North America are, respectively, retailer Target Corp. and uber-cyclist Lance Armstrong.

Anyone pondering a Google home office brand might want to keep the following in mind: Last Friday, several news reports told of the Internet search engine's stock's largest one-day loss ever over investor concern about the future of Internet advertising and a Justice Department lawsuit regarding Internet searches – all part of the risk that goes hand in hand with the opportunities of hooking up with a name everyone knows.

San Francisco Design Center to Have New Owner

By Home Furnishings Business in on January 2006 The owner of the San Francisco Design Center is selling a majority stake in the Showplace, Galleria and an adjoining Galleria parking lot for an undisclosed amount of money.

Bill Poland, chairman of Bay West Group, is selling the property to RREEF, Deutsche Bank Group's real estate arm headquartered in Chicago.

The deal is expected to close next month.

Bay West Group will continue to manage the two properties, which house about 2,000 manufacturers of home furnishings in 500,000 square feet.

According to the San Francisco Business Times, the sale will give Poland the capital needed for two development projects. The first is a condominium, showroom and parking development. The other project would replace the Concourse Exhibition Center used as temporary showroom space and other exhibitions.

Plans call for tearing down the Concourse and building a combination apartment and condominium facility.