New owners eyed for Harden factory

Published Sep 10, 2018 at 4:00pm

MCCONNELLSVILLE — The future for the Harden Furniture plant complex could include new ownership and new business operations, separate from another company’s plans to move the furniture production to North Carolina, plant owner Greg Harden said today.

While Ison Furniture Mfg. Inc. of North Carolina owns the factory equipment and the Harden Furniture brand name, Greg Harden said that company also has a right of first refusal option to purchase the plant complex but he doubts it will be exercised. Ison Furniture Mfg. CEO Philip Ison said Friday he plans to move production to a North Carolina facility.

If Ison does not make the purchase, a separate “third party” that has submitted a purchase offer for the McConnellsville site then could proceed to buy it, said Greg Harden. He said Ison’s right of first refusal is through early October. After that, a purchase contract “could be completed by another party” and the name of that party would be announced, he said. He anticipated that could be done before year-end.

“Hopefully, a new owner” will be able to come in, with “a new business in McConnellsville,” said Greg Harden. The prospective new owner conceivably could use part of the factory complex for its business, plus lease out part of it for use by another business, he added. He expressed hope that the plant complex then could be “back on our feet....Bring some jobs back.”

The Harden Furniture plant currently is in limited operations with about 40 employees to fill some remaining furniture customer orders, said Greg Harden. Those operations are to continue this week, plus a few more days next week before being shut down, he added.

Greg Harden said he has been funding the operations at the plant since July 9. He said the Ison company had a lease agreement for the plant with a Sept. 1 starting date, but he said Ison has “not operated it at all” and it “has continued operating through my funding.”

Greg Harden said of Ison, “I certainly wish him well.” He added it is unfortunate that Ison can not “make things work here.”

Ison has cited some issues with older portions of the complex and the expenses that would be needed, among financial factors in his decision to move the furniture production to North Carolina. Greg Harden said that while some parts of the complex are about 100 years old, other portions include modern buildings. Ison has said that some operations there might be feasible for his company if he could purchase part of the complex.

The Harden company dates back to 1844. Greg Harden had been CEO and the fifth generation of Hardens who had headed the company since its beginning, but was removed this summer.

The Harden plant has had sporadic operations this year amid financial struggles that have included shifts in ownership of certain company assets.