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Stanley Furniture in Graham County to close, laying off 400 in a county of 8,700
ROBBINSVILLE — Billy Davis hesitated about taking on ownership of Graham County Cleaners in Robbinsville. That was three years go.
Rumors that Stanley Furniture – the town’s bread-and-butter — might close was the reason.
On Tuesday, those rumors became reality when Stanley announced it would cease furniture production in Robbinsville.
“I think it will impact the whole county,” said Davis. “I hate it for the people who have jobs at Stanley.”
The closing will mean the elimination of 400 jobs in the rural Western North Carolina county that, in a string of recent months, has had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state. N.C. Department of Commerce data showed that in January, the most recent data available, joblessness in Graham County reached 14.4 percent. That was the highest rate across the mountain region, and it was the second-highest among all of North Carolina’s 100 counties.
With a labor force of about 3,500, Stanley’s closure will nearly double the number of people looking for work, according to state labor force numbers. [See county-by-county information on the largest employers across WNC below.]
The closing will also devastate the 600-resident town of Robbinsville and its coffers, said Alderman Bobby Smith.
“We’ve got some people who have put a lifetime into that place,” Smith said. “As far as staying in this county … our children won’t have much to look forward to.”
The town collects about $8,000 to $9,000 a month for providing sewer and water service to the sprawling plant. There also will be a loss in tax revenue.
“I would hate to guess (how much),” Smith said.
County Manager Greg Cable and Economic Development Director Andy Cable could not be immediately reached for comment. GrahamEditorial.com reported Thursday that the county is working to find a buyer for the facility.
The Robbinsville Stanley Furniture plant, which has been around since the 1960s, makes Young America furniture. According to the company, the furniture is made from hardwoods and maple veneers and designed to carry a child “from crib to college.”
“After a thorough review of both our own operations and the current marketplace for nursery and youth furniture, management and the board concluded that the Young America business could not achieve an acceptable level of revenue within an adequate time frame to assure sustainable profitability and has decided that it is time for our company to focus its efforts on our profitable and growing Stanley brand,” Glenn Prillaman, president and CEO, said in a news release announcing the closing.
David Petersen, vice-president of marketing for the 90-year-old company, said on Wednesday that he could not provide additional details, including the last day of operations or whether severances will be offered to employees.
“Those are the details we will be sharing with our employees as we get through the process internally,” Petersen said.
“What is important now is that we exit our domestic operation in a way that minimizes the impact on our retail customers, and that we do all we can to help our approximately 400 associates in Robbinsville with this difficult change for them and their families,” Prillaman added.” Additionally, we have retained services to assist in maximizing value from assets related to the Young America brand.”
News of the closing took resident Jerry Collins back several decades to when Lees Carpet moved from the same plant. A house painter then, Collins had to find work out of town. Many of his family members moved away, never to return.
“I couldn’t even buy a job here for two years,” the 68-year-old said. “It was really bad.”
Resident J.C. Payne noted the closure will devastate the county of 8,700.
“I think it’s going to be bad,” the 80-year-old retired postal worker said. “Outside of that, we have no industry left. When 400 (lose jobs) in a county that does not have a big population, that’s a big chunk.”
The news came as a shock to many residents, including Jarren Ledbetter, a 25-year-old cook at McDonald’s in Robbinsville.
“I can’t believe it,” Ledbetter said. “That plant has been open as long as I can remember. My aunt worked there for 20-something years. It will take a miracle of God to get through this.”
David Cable, owner of Cable Auto Parts for 23 years, said he didn’t see the Stanley plant’s closure coming.
“It’s sad, it’s very sad,” Cable said.
“We both know people who work there,” added Dirk Cody, whose family owns the nearby Crown Food Mart.
The company will honor all orders for Young America products placed on or before April 28, according to the news release.
Orders for the company’s Stanley brand were up double digits in the first quarter, even with the weather-related challenges that plagued retailers across the country, according to the news release.
“We have a healthy Stanley business that is making money,” Prillaman said. “It is supported by a wonderful heritage, strong product in the field and future pipeline, and we are looking forward to the prospects of focusing our team solely on the growth and profitability of this brand in the short-term.”
The company ended its first quarter with approximately $16.7 million in cash and remains debt free.
More on Graham County’s economy from Carolina Public Press
In 8 WNC counties, child poverty reaching more than 30 percent
State changes economic tier rankings for 4 WNC counties
‘Wherever you are in WNC, public lands are always in the backdrop’: How WNC gained a million acres of national forests, and what their future management may mean
Future management of WNC’s national forests up for discussion