Investors Try To Save Norwalk Furniture

Group of investors has agreed to buy Norwalk Furniture and restart production at its plant in northern Ohio this week, saving some of the jobs lost earlier this year.

NORWALK, Ohio (AP) -- A deal to rescue a struggling high-end furniture maker will save some but not all of the jobs lost earlier this year.

A group of investors has agreed to buy Norwalk Furniture and restart production at its plant in northern Ohio this week, said Jim McTevia, a consulting business turnaround specialist.

The deal ends months of uncertainty for workers who were sent home in July after the company's bank announced it was cutting off credit and forcing it to pay its loan immediately.

Norwalk Furniture, which has been in business for more than a century, thought it had found a buyer last month, but that deal fell apart and left workers thinking the company's days were numbered.

Now five investors from the Norwalk-area have agreed to buy the furniture maker in a deal that could save up to 350 of the 500 jobs at the company's headquarters, said McTevia, who was hired to restructure the family-owned business.

Workers first will begin finishing and shipping sofas, tables and beds already ordered through dealers and franchise stores across North America. That instant source of cash was a significant incentive for buyers to take over the company, McTevia said.

Customer loyalty was a key too, he said.

"That's the frosting on the cake for this group," he said. "They get an immediate backlog of orders."

The sale price and the buyers were not revealed. Dallas-based Comerica, the bank that withdrew the company's credit line in the summer, will finance the sale, McTevia said.

"All I can tell you is they're a bunch of local people and they're dedicated to opening that plant," he said. "They want the plant back operating, and they want the jobs. They have a different goal than other people who were interested in buying it."

The deal does not include the company's factory in Fulton, Miss., where Norwalk Furniture has a factory with 300 employees. McTevia said he is hoping to find a buyer who will get the Mississippi plant open.

The shutdown in Ohio has been tough on workers who have had a difficult time finding jobs in a county whose 8.9 percent unemployment rate in August was 14th in the state. The furniture maker is the town's largest manufacturer.

"There's no hiring going on. It's just tough times. There are no magic answers," said Milt Cassara, president of United Steelworkers Local 48U. "We have people a little up in age. Whose going to hire them?"

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