By DAVE GYMBURCH
McCONNELLSVILLE — The struggling 174-year-old Harden Furniture company, which had briefly suspended operations earlier this year, has again shut down amid reports of its ownership situation remaining unsettled.
Employees of Harden Furniture LLC “have been notified that the offices will be closed until further notice,” according to a statement Wednesday by company National Sales Manager Doug Cleveland. He added, “unfortunately this is all the information the employees have been given at this time.”
Cleveland also said, “on behalf of all Harden employees our sincere apologies for the position this has placed our loyal dealers and clients in. We are awaiting word from the owners as to when we may resume business.”
The company has suspended operations while new ownership that took over earlier this year continues to negotiate with a private equity firm to acquire various company assets, said a report Thursday in the Furniture Today publication.
Production was suspended May 29, while administrative and sales staff was asked not to return to work this week, said Furniture Today. The moves affected an estimated 80-100 workers overall, according to a former company employee.
In addition, the former employee said that Gregory Harden, who had been CEO of the company, was recently dismissed by Michigan investor Walter Haskett, who has an agreement to buy the Harden machinery, inventory and name from another company that had bought assets in January. But the transaction for those assets has not been completed, the former employee said. Gregory Harden owns the company’s building, the former employee added.
Gregory Harden could not be reached for comment. The company, which has been a high-end furniture manufacturer, dates back to 1844. Gregory Harden had been the fifth generation of Hardens who were at the head of the company since its beginning.
Operations at Harden 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 company in mid-February resumed some limited production.
Gregory Harden had said in mid-April that an announcement was anticipated soon regarding a new ownership structure for the company. But no further follow-up announcement was issued, nor did Gregory Harden respond to an email in early May seeking more information about the matter. Big Shoulders has been in discussions with Haskett for several months, the former employee said.
The Harden company had 175 employees before the January auction of assets, according to a previous Furniture Today report.