EQUIPMENT TO BE AUCTIONED — Ison Funiture Mfg. Inc., new owners of Harden Furniture’s equipment and brand name, are planning an online auction of the company’s excess equipment. The Harden Furniture plant complex, shown above, is still owned by Greg Harden, whom an Ison official said has a purchase agreement with another area company to buy the overall plant. (Sentinel file photo by John Clifford)

Uncertain future for Harden Furniture as online auction to begin

Published Sep 8, 2018 at 4:10pm

MCCCONNELLSVILLE — The company that now owns Harden Furniture’s equipment and brand name plans to move all of its furniture production to a facility in Thomasville, N.C., the head of the company said Friday.

An online auction of excess Harden equipment will be held within two weeks, said Philip Ison, CEO of Ison Funiture Mfg. Inc. which recently acquired the equipment and brand-name assets from another company that had acquired them in a January foreclosure auction.

Ison said the Harden Furniture plant complex is still owned by Greg Harden, who formerly was CEO of the 174-year-old company. Separately, a sale of some existing Harden Furniture product inventory is scheduled for Sept. 14-16 at the Harden showroom at the site.

The plant currently has some limited operations that Greg Harden said he has been funding. Ison's North Carolina company had recently reached a lease agreement for the Harden plant complex, and his company had been looking into buying it.

However, Ison said Friday that after reviewing various financial factors, “we just can’t see operations at that location working.” He referred to “investments have to be made” at the site that are “too large to have it work again.”

If his company could purchase just the upholstery furniture manufacturing building at the Harden Furniture site, it could “probably make it work,” said Ison. He said using the separate hardwood furniture manufacturing facility would not be feasible, calling the older building a “dead-weight problem.”

But Ison said Greg Harden did “not want to sell off the upholstery building from the separate hardwood furniture building.” He said Greg Harden has a purchase agreement with another area company to buy the overall plant while “we’ve got until Sept. 29 to match that offer.” However, at this point his company is moving forward with the equipment auction, said Ison, adding that his company also will be taking some equipment for its North Carolina facility.

“We ran the numbers” and determined it was “better to have an auction” of equipment and “move production” to the North Carolina site, said Ison. He referred to Harden equipment that “is kind of ancient,” plus repairs needed in the Harden plant among “all the other parameters” that do “not make it economically feasible.” He also cited such expenses as property taxes, heating and electricity.

Ison said his company’s plans for Harden Furniture products are to “sell it as a brand” including hardwood furniture and upholstered furniture.

It would be made at a former Thomasville Furniture Manufacturing plant in North Carolina that his company now owns.

“I really feel sorry for the people that worked there” at the Harden site in McConnellsville, commented Ison, adding there is “not much we can do.” He remarked “I really like the workforce....I thought they were talented....I feel bad it did not work out.”

The Harden Furniture plant in McConnellsville has had sporadic operations this year amid ongoing financial struggles for the business. It had about 175 employees before the January sale of company assets at an auction to Big Shoulders Capital, a lender based in Illinois, according to the Furniture Today publication; the Ison company has recently acquired assets from Big Shoulders.

Operations were briefly suspended following the January auction, and production then was suspended again in late May followed by administrative and sales staff a few weeks later, in moves affecting an estimated 80-100 workers overall. The plant reopened in July with some limited operations.

The Harden company dates back to 1844. Greg Harden had been the fifth generation of Hardens who had headed the company since its beginning. He was removed as CEO this summer, according to online reports including Furniture Today.