Harden resumes limited operation; eyes potential merger, investment

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McCONNELLSVILLE — Harden Furniture has resumed limited production, and Gregory Harden, the fifth generation of Hardens who have been at the head of the company since its start in 1844, is hopeful about the the future.

The high-end residential and commercial furnishings maker restarted “minimal production” after operations were suspended following the Jan. 31 sale of company assets at an auction to Big Shoulders Capital, a lender based in Illinois.

“We are in active negotiations with several parties and anticipate a merger or third-party investment between now and April,” said Harden in an email sent to the Sentinel Wednesday.

The CEO said the company is currently accepting new orders. 

A total of 82 of the company’s 172 employees were brought back when the factory reopened. However, there is a date when the factory could again be shuttered.

“... it is anticipated operations will continue through April 12, 2018 for minimal production. Remainder of the 90 employees are on re-call should the production schedule warrant additional call backs,” says an updated notice to the state Labor Department. It is dated Feb. 12.

The state Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires businesses to give warning of closings and layoffs. There’s a similar federal requirement too.

The original notification to the state said the plant closed on Jan. 31, the date when the auction ended.

“When we recalled employees this week we had to file again as we do not know what Big Shoulders’ long-term plans are,” said Harden’s email.

A merger or investment that buys back the assets could make obsolete the closing scenario contained in the amended WARN notice.

The April 12 date was given in the notice in the event the company’s new owner does not authorize production beyond that date.

Big Shoulders Capital submitted the only bid for the company during the foreclosure auction held by lender Gemcap Solutions.

Gemcap financed Miramar Capital Partners taking a controlling interest in the furniture maker in 2016.

Harden retained a small ownership stake — the land and buildings. The Gemcap loan was secured by assets like the machinery and accounts receivable.

Harden has said biggest obstacle facing the company after the Miramar group took control was too much money going to pay down debt and not enough going back into the company’s operations — and not a lack of business. In fact, he has said orders for the commercial side of the business had been especially strong of late.

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