PROSPECTS UNCERTAIN — A small crew of about 20 workers at Harden Furniture’s plant in McConnellsville, shown in this file photo, is fulfilling orders. The future of the historic operation is uncertain amid a snarl of motions and filings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. (Sentinel file photo by John Clifford)

No cushion for Harden Furniture, snarled in bankruptcy court

Published Jul 20, 2018 at 12:00pm

McCONNELLSVILLE — The sporadic operations at the Harden Furniture plant have resumed on a limited basis, but the struggling 174-year-old company’s ownership and future prospects are snarled including U.S. Bankruptcy Court proceedings.

A voice-mail message at the company’s phone number today says “we are open and we are working with a limited staff to fill orders....”

The plant reopened last week, and about 20 employees are on-site for production to fill some remaining product orders that were on hand, according to a former employee. Those operations probably will continue until around the end of August, the former employee estimated.

Production had been suspended in late May, followed by administrative and sales staff being asked a few weeks later not to return to work; those moves affected an estimated 80-100 workers overall. Operations previously had been briefly suspended following the Jan. 31 sale of company assets at an auction to Big Shoulders Capital, a lender based in Illinois. The Harden company had about 175 employees before that January auction, according to a report earlier this year by the Furniture Today publication.

The former employee said the current limited reopening was arranged through Gregory Harden, who had been CEO of the company. He still owns the company’s building, the former employee said. Gregory Harden hired workers under a new corporate entity and is funding payroll and the cost of materials, Furniture Today reported Thursday regarding the limited reopening.

Meanwhile, a pending U.S. Bankruptcy Court case involves a Chapter 11 business reorganization filing that was initiated last month by Maverick One Leasing Company LLC of Bloomfield Hills, Mich. That company is affiliated with investor Walter Haskett, who had an agreement to buy the Harden machinery, inventory and name from Big Shoulders Capital. The Big Shoulders company is listed as an unsecured creditor in the Maverick One bankruptcy filing, said Furniture Today.

A Bankruptcy Court ruling this week denied a motion by Maverick One to extend time to file a schedule and documents including assets and liabilities, according to court records.

Another upcoming factor in the court proceedings involves the U.S. Trustee’s motion to convert the Chapter 11 filing to a Chapter 7 liquidation or dismiss the filing. The motion involves claims that the filing did not meet certain deadlines and obligations, according to court records.

A hearing on the U.S. Trustee’s default motion is scheduled for Aug. 7 at U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Utica, court documents said.

The Harden company, which dates back to 1844, has been a high-end furniture manufacturer. Gregory Harden had been the fifth generation of Hardens who had headed the company since its beginning.