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Furniture plant to close; economy blamed

Henkel Harris likely to end production next month, putting 130 out of work

By Sally Voth

The poor economy has claimed another victim -- high-end Winchester furniture crafters Henkel Harris.

Bill Henkel, CEO and president of the company started by his parents in 1946, confirmed on Thursday that Henkel Harris likely would close at the end of next month.

"We're hoping that we don't have to shut down at the end of the year," he said. "Incoming orders are very slow. People just aren't buying furniture. We can't run if we don't have orders."

That means 130 employees -- including Henkel's three sons, William Jr., Mark and John Carroll -- will be out of jobs.

Henkel's late parents, Carroll and Mary Henkel, and their friend, John Harris, started the company in 1946, and it kept growing, according to the Henkel Harris website. The firm's craftsmen create reproduction 18th-century furniture out of cherry and mahogany, he said.

"It's very disturbing, but we're seeing a lot of our high-end retailers have been closing their doors this year," Henkel said of the impending closure. "We've lost four high-end retailers this year."

And, more are saying they plan to go out of business, he said.

"The economy really is not conducive to people spending money," Henkel said. "We always considered that being made here in America [that] that was a plus, but that's not the case evidently because people, they're going to Costco and buying import furniture. The companies that are making it are very low-end. People are going out and buying cheap stuff and living with it. High-end furniture just doesn't have a place in this country anymore."

Henkel holds out the possibility that the closure may be temporary, but doesn't have much hope.

"There's a possibility that we will be running a smaller shift, but I don't want to hold out hope for it right now," he said. "There may be a skeleton crew until we get all that moved, but at this point, it does look like we will probably have to close the doors unless something turns around with the election."

Henkel Harris furniture is in the White House, the CEO noted. Henkel said the retail price of one of the firm's dining room tables is generally $8,000-$12,000.

"Even the people that have money aren't spending it," he said. "They're scared. They're scared with this economy. You can't squeeze blood out of a turnip."

Employees were informed of the upcoming shutdown on Monday.

"Most of them are not very pleased with it, but they understand," Henkel said. "There's just no orders coming. The one thing that creates jobs is a demand for a product or a service. There just isn't any demand out there."

He said he understood that people need to spend their money on things like cars to get themselves to work.

"There are more and more manufacturers that are in the same position that we're in," Henkel said.

He said he didn't know yet what his family would do for work after the plant shuts down.

"We're kind of concerned about that, too," Henkel said.

There are no plans to sell the 300,000-square-foot plant, he said, but the equipment may be sold.

Henkel Harris is having a factory sale Nov. 8-10.

Contact staff writer Sally Voth at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or svoth@nvdaily.com


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