Pulaski Furniture Corporation
Pulaski Furniture Corporation
One Pulaski Square
Pulaski, Virginia 24301
Telephone: (540) 980-7330
Fax: (540) 994-5756
Incorporated: 1955 as Pulaski Veneer and Furniture Company
Sales: $198 million (1999)
Stock Exchanges: NASDAQ
Ticker Symbol: PLFC
NAIC: 337122: Furniture, Wood Household-Type, Not Upholstered (Except TV and Radio Housings, and Sewing Machine Cabinets) Manufacturing
The Pulaski Furniture Corporation manufactures mid-priced dining room and bedroom furniture, curio cabinets, occasional furniture, such as small tables, desks, and accent pieces, and grandfather, mantel, and wall clocks. The company highlights many kinds of wood in its product line, including pine, maple, oak, ash, cherry, and mahogany. Wood veneers, inlays, carvings, embossings, and other “fancy faces” are imported, acquired from local manufacturers, or produced by the Pulaski Furniture Corporation. Ornate and nostalgic furniture are the company’s mainstays, particularly its line of curio cabinets.
Finding a Market Niche in Furniture Design and Manufacturing
Fred Stanley, Sr. and C.B. Richardson founded the Pulaski Furniture Corporation in the economically depressed town of Pulaski, Virginia, in 1955. Stanley brought experience from employment at the Stanley Furniture Company in Stanleytown, Virginia, while Richardson brought experience as chief operating officer of the RCA Victor Radio Case Plant which closed in Pulaski in 1948. Bernard Wampler, then a recent graduate of North Carolina State University with experience in furniture manufacturing, became involved as assistant supervisor. With the formation of the Pulaski Veneer and Furniture Corporation, Stanley, Richardson, and Wampler reopened the former RCA plant in downtown Pulaski to produce moderately priced bedroom furniture.
Furniture manufacturing has always been a cyclical business, and the Pulaski Veneer and Furniture Corporation endured the difficulties of the industry in its first years. When a slim cash supply required the company to write partial paychecks, hams, flour, and other such goods from the Richardson farms often satisfied the balance. After five years in business, however, the company had reached $5.5 million in sales and purchased the Morris Novelty Corporation, a producer of such novelty furniture items as small occasional tables. The acquisition included a manufacturing facility in Martinsville, Virginia, which became known as “plant #2,” while several of the Morris family remained as employees. An initial public offering of stock in 1962 provided funds to further expand the company, then renamed the Pulaski Furniture Corporation (PFC).
With new manufacturing capabilities, a new supply of funds and a strong market for home furnishings, the company prospered in the early 1960s. PFC purchased 28 acres of land in Dublin, Virginia, where the company built a wood mill in 1964 to produce the veneer and cross banding used in furniture manufacturing. At this time the furniture designers embraced simple styles which facilitated the manufacture of furniture and kept prices low. As factory employees developed their skills, the company’s furniture designs became more elaborate. By the mid-1960s PFC had found a market niche in bedroom and dining room furniture with ornate designs. Though only slightly more difficult to produce, the stylized furniture had an expensive look and gave PFC its identity among such well-known brands as Bassett, Broyhill, Thomasville, and Lane, as well as among small furniture manufacturers. Furniture designer Leonard Eisen came to work for the company at this time.
After serving as superintendent, vice-president of manufactures, and executive vice-president, Bernard Wampler became president and CEO of PFC in 1967. Under Wampler’s leadership, the identity of PFC evolved to incorporate nostalgic furniture designs with broad customer appeal. A fall 1971 public offering of 125,000 shares of stock, at $33.00 share, prepared the company as the proceeds were used for the expansion of manufacturing and warehouse facilities. The company required a new plant to produce “case goods,” dining room and bedroom furniture, and built another facility on its acreage in Dublin. In 1976 construction began at the Martinsville plant to upgrade and renovate the facility, increasing the capacity of that plant by 50 percent.
Marketing Nostalgia in the 1970s and 1980s
Renovation of the Martinsville facility enabled the company to fulfill consumer demand for its landmark Keepsake Collection, a line of nostalgic furniture initiated by Eisen along with Wampler. The product line featured late 19th century, middle-American styles in golden oak wood furniture, a sharp contrast to the ornate, synthetic items the company made at the time. The collection consisted primarily of nostalgic accent pieces, such as hall trees, washstands and shaving stands, but PFC later added dining room and bedroom furniture. Introduced at the biannual furniture market at High Point, North Carolina, in spring 1976, the Keepsake Collection established the standard for nostalgic furniture items in the furniture manufacturing industry and set a milestone as the best selling line of case goods in the furniture industry. In January 1982 PFC shipped the one millionth piece, amounting to over $300 million in retail sales when no other collection had ever sold one million units. The line of furniture helped the company withstand economic recession, as PFC enjoyed brisk sales for nearly eight years before sales declined in the mid-1980s.
As demand subsided for the Keepsake Collection, the company began to produce curio cabinets at its Martinsville plant in 1982. Curio cabinets tended to be used for personal collections of nostalgic pieces, such as dolls, statuary, china, and other items, as well as for personal memorabilia. Like the Keepsake Collection, many collectibles hearken back to seemingly less complicated eras, and curio cabinets gave customers a place to showcase them. The cabinets featured flexible shelving, mirrored backs, unobstructed viewing, and lighting appropriate to the collectible inside. For example, a doll collection required regular lights rather than the preferred halogen lights, because halogen light changed the color of the dolls’ hair. PFC’s marketing for the curio cabinets focused on collectors, with advertisements in collectors’ magazines, rather than toward the general home decorating market. The initial seven curio models priced at $100 retail.
PFC often took a fun approach in its decisions on what kinds of occasional furniture to produce. Other collections included such nostalgic items as player pianos and wooden telephone booths for the home; the latter sold 2,000 units each year for its first three years. In 1984 Eisen introduced a collection of accent and occasional furniture inspired by Hollywood movies. The “Casablanca” group included a World War II vintage-look console-chest, while the “Stage Coach” group spotlighted a smaller version of the Wells Fargo Wooton Organizer Desk. Made of oak, the desk featured a pull-down writing desk and organizing slots. The “Ice Cream Works” featured a marble top ice cream bar with freezer-refrigerator and bar stools, and, by coincidence, was launched in the year of the 150th anniversary of the invention of the soda fountain. Product merchandising for such specialized pieces motivated the development of the Pulaski Galleries. Set within approximately 800 retail stores, the Galleries highlighted eight to 24 accent pieces by displaying each item on its own raised platform.
The company continued to expand its manufacturing capabilities to accommodate its burgeoning business. A 1983 joint venture, Triwood, Inc., in which PFC owned 25 percent, produced particle board and improved the plywood making process. Also in 1983 PFC acquired 17.5 acres and a 815,000 square foot building adjoining the downtown Pulaski, Virginia, plant, as well as equipment, from the Coleman Furniture Corporation. Renovation of part of the plant included conversion to production of plywood, “turnings,” and machined parts. Completed in 1985, the remaining space was used for a warehouse and offices. The $4 million project involved a new finishing plant, completed in 1988.
PFC supplemented its product line with the 1985 acquisition of the Gravely Furniture Corporation, the leading maker of grandfather, mantel, and wall clocks. In a stock transaction valued at $9.5 million, PFC acquired a 326,000 square foot production, warehouse, and office facility on 79.5 acres in Ridgeway, Virginia. Renamed the Ridgeway Clock Company, under the ownership of PFC the company’s first major project involved the production of 1,986 commemorative, Lady Liberty grandfather clocks for the centennial of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. In addition to a solid mahogany cabinet, design elements involved fluted pilasters, beveled glass doors, polished brass, and an etching of the torch on the clock face. With a retail price of $5,000, PFC donated a portion of the profits to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island renovation project.
In keeping with the company’s nostalgic, ornate furniture design, PFC acquired Craftique, Inc. of Mebane, North Carolina, for $5.3 million in 1988. Craftique specialized in the reproduction of antique solid mahogany furniture. In 1991 the company reproduced a mahogany block front desk from the 18th century, a $2,500 copy of an original that sold at auction in 1983 for $687,500. Also, in 1989 PFC opened an upholstery plant in Christiansburg, Virginia.
- Initial public offering of stock.
- Bernard Wampler named president and CEO.
- The Keepsake Collection is introduced.
- Company begins production of curio cabinets.
- Pulaski acquires renowned manufacturer of grandfather clocks.
- Specially designed manufacturing facility in full production.
Ornate styling and nostalgia continued to be of significance to the success of PFC into the 1990s. Furniture industry trends turned toward an eclectic mix of furniture styles which reflected diverse public tastes and a more casual attitude toward home decoration. Eisen’s 50-piece collection encompassed several distinct styles, such as a French Empire secretary and a Victorian tete-a-tete love seat with a serpentine-shaped back to keep a young woman and her suitor from getting too close. PFC introduced the popular fossil stone table in 1990, a glass-top table, available in different types, with a metal base and fossil stones from the Philippines along the edge of the table top. By 1992 the company had developed over 100 models of curio cabinets for collectibles, available in a variety of styles, including French, Italian, 18th-century American, Victorian, and modern. PFC became the largest manufacturer of curio cabinets and produced over 1,000 different furniture items as well.
The 1990s: From Fluctuating Revenues to Stable Growth
PFC experienced dramatic changes in its revenues and faced higher production costs in the 1990s. While sales increased from $115.1 million in 1988 to $131.8 million in 1989, in 1990 revenues reached only $132.5 million. During the economic recession PFC experienced a dramatic decrease in 1991, to $120.6 million in revenue. Lower priced furniture and promotional items with lower profit margins tended to sell, while production for fewer units of each piece increased the costs. A production rate of 300 units per style was less cost efficient than a production rate of 500 units per style. The company maintained earnings, but retailer bankruptcies increased, resulting in a loss of $1.2 million from bad credit. The number of credit holds grew also, as previous credit problems required the retention of a product order from shipment until payment had been received from the retailer.
PFC sought to reduce overhead and expand its growth potential through import and export activities. In 1989 the rising costs of lumber led the company to import unfinished dining room chair parts from Asia for assembly and finishing at the Pulaski facility. Led by John Wampler, the son of Bernard Wampler, PFC took advantage of the low cost of labor and materials and the lack of government mandates for safety in Far Eastern countries, especially Taiwan. Also, the Ridgeway Clock company had an export business in place when it was acquired by PFC, providing a network of business associations which facilitated growth through worldwide expansion. Export countries included Europe, Asia, Mexico, the Middle East, and Canada, with sales from export at eight percent in 1993.
A growing demand for different styles of curio cabinet led PFC to improve its production methods. Jim Stout, manager of the original Pulaski, Virginia, plant traveled around the world to study the technology available to improve flexibility, productivity, and cost efficiency. The result involved a combination of technology from Japan, Italy, Germany, and the United States applied to the needs of producing hall trees, consoles, entertainment centers, as well as curio cabinet frames. Computer technology aligned the wood and identified where to cut the board for best yield. With the new technology, wood which entered the rough mill on Monday usually left by Friday as a finished wood furniture product packaged for shipment. Computers programmed for each furniture item provided flexibility in manufacturing schedules. The process reduced the number of workers per machine from six to two, but those two positions became more highly skilled. Implementation of the technology created a total of 110 skilled, higher paying positions. PFC worked with the New River Community College and the Virginia Department of Economic Development to provide training for its employees.
In 1993 construction to expand plant #1 began in Pulaski to accommodate the technology with a new 75,000 square foot factory, bringing the company’s total production, warehousing, and office space to 1.4 million square feet. After an investment of $13.6 million, full production began in May 1994, running two work shifts, rather than one, each day. With slow retail sales in 1995, however, all of the company factories operated on reduced schedules, four days a week.
With erratic customer demand in 1995 PFC needed to balance originality with caution. In 1996 the company did produce a collection of furniture for automobile racing fans, the HomeTrack Collection. The 17-piece line included a black-and-white checkered armchair or recliner with racing tire shaped arm rests, a glass-top coffee table with Goodyear tires as a base, and a curio cabinet designed for racing memorabilia and collectibles. The furniture debuted at the NASCAR Winston Cup event in Daytona Beach, Florida, in February. The merchandise was available only at Winston Cup events, through a mobile showroom managed by furniture retailer Heilig-Meyers.
In June 1996 PFC’s subsidiary Craftique, was chosen to reproduce the work of Thomas Day, a free, black cabinet maker of the early 19th century, considered the best cabinet maker in North Carolina during the antebellum period. Craftique collaborated with the Thomas Day House/Union (Tavern) Restoration project and the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources to determine which pieces to reproduce. Day’s style spanned from simple to grandiose and incorporated Empire, 18th-century, and Federal design elements. The 18-piece collection comprised three pieces copied from the museum and 15 pieces copied from privately owned furniture, with each piece made to order. Craftique made the furniture from Honduran mahogany obtained from renewable tree planting programs. The reproduction procedure required detailed drawings, precise measurements, and a complex process of matching wood color, grain, and size to conserve the expensive wood.
To accommodate its $10 million import-export activities, PFC purchased an 80,000 square foot building on a ten-acre site in Pulaski which had been recently vacated. The company had been looking for a new site when the local government informed PFC that the clothing manufacturing plant had gone on sale. The town of Pulaski lent PFC $500,000 from its Urban Development Action fund to buy the building. As the second largest employer in the area, PFC created 260 jobs between 1993 and 1997, had invested $14 million in the area, and had previously repaid a development loan. PFC invested an additional $1.5 million to acquire and renovate the property. Operations began in early 1997, warehousing merchandise from Italy, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
As sales and demand continued to fluctuate in the mid-1990s, PFC sought stability by focusing on its main business, mid-priced case goods and occasional furniture. PFC and its partners sold Triwood in 1995. Craftique did not meet the company’s profit goals leading to its sale in 1997. PFC also closed its upholstery seating operation, which lost money, allowing raw materials to be used on existing designs. In 1997 sales reached $158.9 million. The company balanced stability and change when, upon the retirement of Bernard Wampler in 1997, John Wampler became CEO of the company.
Acquisitions in 1998 reflected the company’s ambition to enhance its core business. PFC obtained a contract to manufacture furniture for hotels and motels, as other furniture manufacturers receded from that area to concentrate on residential customers. In October PFC purchased the Dawson Furniture Company of Webb City, Missouri. Dawson specialized in pine and oak wood furniture which would complement PFC’s product offerings with a different product mix and lower-priced furniture items. PFC expected the acquisition to stimulate new product development and expand its distribution network.
Marketing development, a strong retail market, and increased product demand stimulated sales in the late 1990s. In 1998 sales grew to $172.4 million, while in 1999 sales increased to $198.2 million, a 15 percent increase which included $15.2 million in sales from Dawson products. PFC’s strength continued to be furniture impulse items such as clocks, curio cabinets, and occasional furniture. At the turn of the century, curio cabinets had become an essential part of the living room for many Pulaski customers. About half of the company’s sales in the late 1990s came from its 175 models of curio cabinets, retail priced from $199 to $3,000.
Pulaski Foreign Sales Corporation, Inc.
Bassett Furniture Industries, Inc.; Ethan Allen Interiors, Inc.; Furniture Brands International.
Allegrezza, Ray, “Pulaski to Buy Dawson Furniture,” Furniture-Today, October 19, 1998, p. 2.
Brown-Kelly, Sandra, “Pulaski Furniture Picks Wampler Jr. Chief Executive,” Roanoke Times, December 4, 1993, p. 8A.
——, “Pulaski Furniture Predicts Good Year,” Roanoke Times, February 11, 1995, p. 4A.
Bryant, Pat, “New Designs Take Guesswork out of Today’s Victorian,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 22, 1991, p. 6H.
“Craftique to Produce Thomas Day Collection,” HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishings Network, January 1, 1996, p. 24.
Craver, Richard, “Virginia Furniture Maker Sues Former Executive and His New Employer,” Knight-Ridder/Tribune Business News, November 29, 1999.
Day Pashley, Beth, “Taking the Checkered Flag: The HomeTrack Collection of NASCAR-inspired Furniture Revs up Home Decor,” Roanoke Times, April 14, 1996, p. 1.
Dellinger, Paul, “Pulaski Furniture Adds Space, Computers, 110 Jobs,” Roanoke Times, August 13, 1993, p. 1A.
——, “Computerized Curios the Latest at Pulaski Furniture Corporation,” Roanoke Times, June 11, 1995, p. 3NRV.
——, “Furniture Facility Dedicated: Pulaski Furniture Outgrew Its Building,” Roanoke Times, June 28, 1997, p. 3B.
Dunne, Beverly, “Top 25 Furniture Makers Seek Growth through Exports,” Wood & Wood Products, June 1993, p. 39.
Garret, Barbara, “A New Day for 19th C. Furniture,” Wood & Wood Products, September 1996, p. 36.
Hamilton, William. “Collectible Craze Hits Furniture Business,” Montreal Gazette, November 25, 1999, p. 4D.
Holiday, Ann, “Curio Cabinet Just the Thing for Collections,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 24, 1992, p. 28.
——, “Name Your Style, and You Can Get It,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 14, 1989, p. 21.
——, “New Furniture Blends Time and Space,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, October 25, 1991, p. 23.
McIntosh, Jay, “Pulaski to Sell Craftique, Close U.S. UPH Operation,” Furniture-Today, July 28, 1997, p. 2.
Milenky, Elissa, “Pulaski Furniture to Expand, Add 30 Jobs This Year,” Roanoke Times, August 6, 1996, p. 1.
Mitchell, Gordon, “Clocking a Record,” Barrons, March 3, 1986, pp. 53-56.
Nightengale, Cyndi Y., “Croquet, Anyone?” Los Angeles Times, June 3, 1995, p. 3.
Platz, Bruce, “Building a Better Factory,” FDM, Furniture Design & Manufacturing, 1996, pp. 42-50.
“Pulaski Furniture Common,” Wall Street Journal, September 3,1971, p. 11.
“Pulaski Furniture Has Slow Spring,” Roanoke Times, June 16, 1995, p. 9A.
“Pulaski Furniture’s President Is Honored,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, November, 18, 1991, p. 5B.
“Pulaski Gravely Plan to Merge,” Wall Street Journal, June 12, 1985, p. 12.
The Pulaski Story, Pulaski, Va.: Pulaski Furniture Corporation.
“Pulaski to Test New Clean-Air Process,” Furniture-Today, March 10, 1997, p. 2.
Schnabel, Megan, “Pulaski Furniture CEO Steps Down,” Roanoke Times, February 15, 1997, p. 5A.
——, “Pulaski Furniture Has Been Rebuilding,” Roanoke Times, December 19, 1998, p. 7A.
——, “Pulaski Furniture Makers Move in New Directions,” Roanoke Times, May 3, 1998, p. 2.
——, “Pulaski Furniture Trims Its Operations: Domestic Upholstery Line to Be Dropped; Craftique Division to Be Sold,” Roanoke Times, August 2, 1997, p. 4A.
Slaughter, Powell, “Shoemaker, Erwins to Buy Craftique from Pulaski,” Furniture-Today, September 22, 1997, p. 2.
Stowe, Michael, “Pulaski Furniture Again Files for Trademark Infringement,” Roanoke Times, October 28, 1994, p. 11 A.
——, “Pulaski Furniture Sues; Trademark Violations Claimed,” Roanoke Times, October 20, 1994, p. 8B.
Sturgeon, Jeff, “Furniture Maker Files Lawsuit over Design; Pulaski Furniture Says Suit ‘Without Merit’” Roanoke Times, November 30, 1999, p. 7A.
——, “Pulaski Furniture: Growth Prospects Forecast as Strong,” Roanoke Times, February 13, 1999, p. 5A.
Werne, Jo, “A Curio to Show Your ‘Curiosities’,” Miami Herald, July 1, 1984, p. 4H.
——, “Lady Liberty Elegant Reminder,” Miami Herald, April 27, 1986, p. 8H.
——, “Occasional Furniture Recalls the Silver Screen,” Miami Herald, October 30, 1983, p. 23H.
"Pulaski Furniture Corporation." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/pulaski-furniture-corporation-0
"Pulaski Furniture Corporation." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/pulaski-furniture-corporation-0
Pulaski Furniture Corporation
Pulaski Furniture Corporation
301 Madison Avenue South
Pulaski, Virginia 24301
Telephone: (540) 980-7330
Fax: (540) 994-5756
Web site: http://www.pulaskifurniture.com
Sales: $242 million (2005 est.)
NAIC: 337120 Household and Institutional Furniture Manufacturing; 337129 Wood Television, Radio, and Sewing Machine Cabinet Manufacturing; 337211 Wood Office Furniture Manufacturing; 423210 Furniture Merchant Wholesalers
Pulaski Furniture Corporation makes mid-priced wooden bedroom, dining room, and occasional furniture for the home, such as credenzas and chests, home entertainment centers, and curio cabinets, and desks, bookcases, and consoles for the home office. In addition, the company imports accent pieces and parts, which it includes in its furniture. Pulaski Furniture is distributed through independent retailers, regional chains, national chains, department stores, and catalog houses. The company operates factories in Virginia and Missouri and a distribution center in North Carolina. It is credited with introducing eclectica to an industry that once primarily sold suites.
1955–1972: CREATING A NICHE IN THE OCCASIONAL FURNITURE MARKET
In 1955, Thomas J. McCarthy, Sr., Fred A. Stanley, Sr., and Colin Richardson founded and incorporated the Pulaski Veneer and Furniture Corporation, taking the name for their new venture from the Virginia town in which it was located. The company's original home was an old RCA Victor cabinet shop in downtown Pulaski that had been closed since 1948 as a result of the region's depressed economy.
The company began by making a couple of inexpensive bedroom and dining room suites. Designs were simple to provide for low pricing and ease of manufacture as the factory personnel's skill developed. Business was generally good for the new company, although, in the early years, employees sometimes received goods, such as hams and flour, from the Richardson family's farm in lieu of cash paychecks.
Pulaski Corporation acquired its first permanent showroom space in Chicago, Illinois, at the American Furniture Market in October 1957. In 1960, it acquired Morris Novelty Corporation of Martinsville, Virginia, producers of small occasional tables and other novelty furniture items. From this point forward, Pulaski began to expand into the production of curio cabinets, designed for the express purpose of displaying collectibles. Thanks mostly to the "Pulaski look," a highly stylized line that was a bit more difficult to manufacture and looked more expensive than it actually was, business was brisk.
The company changed its name from Pulaski Veneer and Furniture Corporation to Pulaski Furniture Corporation in 1962. By the mid-1960s, sales had reached about $7 million, and in 1967, Bernard "Bunny" C. Wampler became the company's chief executive officer, a role he occupied for the next 30 years. Under Bunny Wampler, Pulaski continued to expand and diversify, adding accent pieces, occasional tables, and hand painted armoires.
1973–1987: A SIGNIFICANT GROWTH PHASE
The company positioned itself for future growth by building a new case goods plant in Dublin, Virginia, in 1973. Twice the size of the original Pulaski case goods factory, this plant was the most modern of its time and huge for its day at 550,000 square feet.
In spring of 1976, with the nation's Bicentennial celebration under way, Pulaski introduced a line of golden oak furniture called Keepsakes, a 45-piece, "turn of the century" Victorian bedroom, dining room, and accent furniture collection that looked a lot like furniture that for many years had been considered old-fashioned. Extremely popular, this collection eventually grew to 90 pieces, and in December 1980, Pulaski cut its one millionth piece of Keepsakes.
The introduction of Keepsakes initiated what was to become a significant growth phase for Pulaski. Shortly thereafter, at an auction in 1983, Pulaski bought Coleman Furniture, a case goods manufacturer, whose primary business was manufacturing contract furniture for hotels and the government. Coleman was a very large bedroom manufacturer with more than 1,000,000 square feet of production and warehouse space. This purchase helped to consolidate Pulaski's shift from an older to a modern manufacturing facility, and contributed to its impressive growth in revenues. Pulaski joined forces that year with three other companies to form Triwood, a joint venture focused on the manufacture of plywood; this venture ended in 1995. Annual sales increased from $48 million in 1981 to $74 million in 1985.
During the latter half of the 1980s, domestic furniture sales benefitted from low interest rates in the United States. These rates made home ownership more affordable, and created new homeowners in need of furniture. Pulaski's growth accelerated in 1985 with the $9.4 million acquisition of Gravely Furniture Company, which operated as Ridgeway Clock Company, a world-renowned manufacturer of grandfather, wall, and mantel clocks. Combined, the two firms had annual revenues of about $90 million from four plants and employed around 1,850 people.
The Ridgeway plant was a good fit for Pulaski because the clock business, like the curio business, provided accent pieces for decorating. The timing for this purchase was also ideal as, in the mid-1980s, consumers turned away from avant garde designs and toward nostalgic recreations of old American furniture styles. With the total number of sales for the Keepsakes collection at 1,300,000 pieces, the company added the 30-piece Sagamore Hill collection, which tapped into the same spirit of nostalgia in consumers.
In 1987, Pulaski held its initial public offering (IPO) of stock, and one year later, in 1988, the company purchased Craftique, a high-end manufacturer of solid mahogany reproductions of 18th-century furniture pieces. In 1989, it launched its Accentrics line, which departed from the company's traditional focus on nostalgia to incorporate high-end, mixed-media designs at medium price points. In 1990, the company also started a seated upholstery plant in Christiansburg, Virginia.
1987–2005: A DOWNTURN IN THE FURNITURE INDUSTRY
Unfortunately, the stock market crash of October 1987 had inaugurated a downturn for the entire furniture business. Although the industry recovered briefly in 1988, consumer confidence faded during the mini-crash of 1989, by which time the nation's seven-year economic expansion was ending, and a national recession was underway. Waves of layoffs across the nation cut into consumers' willingness to spend. Although sales for Pulaski reached $100 million in 1987 and continued to grow through the remainder of the 1980s, the company also began to look for ways to reduce its production costs.
The Pulaski success is directly attributable to defining our niche in various core competencies and servicing it well with proper products, prices, and quality to make our products highly desirable in a specific marketplace. 2005 marks Pulaski Furniture's 50th Anniversary. We celebrate our rich history and look forward to the next 50 years.
During this time, Pulaski began to establish its Asian connections, bringing in both ready-to-finish and completely assembled goods from overseas at least partly as a means of economizing on production. (By 2005, more than half of the company's business came from Asian imports.) In the wake of poor results for its Craftique division in 1993, the company introduced a new line of promotionally priced items, curios, hall trees, consoles, and gun cabinets in 1994. It also built a highly mechanized $10 million curio manufacturing facility to maintain its presence in the mid- to lower-end furniture market. The 75,000-square foot small plant, Pulaski's "miniplant," was a complete manufacturing facility with rough milling, finishing, and packaging capacity in which a curio cabinet could go from cut lumber to being boxed for shipping in three to five days.
With leadership from John Wampler, Bunny Wampler's son, starting in 1993, the corporation became increasingly market-driven, focusing on what the company's customers and their consumers wanted. Every product niche was organized into a "strategic business unit," and the company designed its products to be easy to coordinate and, thus, easy to sell. Having worked for the family business from the age of 15, John Wampler, who would became chief executive officer in 1997, oversaw big changes in the 2,250-employee, ten-factory company. The company upgraded machine and information centers, to "make more furniture with the same number of people, and to make it faster," according to Wampler, as quoted in an October 1996 High Points article.
Wampler also led the move to restructure the company along product lines and refocus on its core competencies. This led to selling the Craftique division and closing the upholstery division in 1997, while reorganizing production to assign products to the plant most efficient for their manufacture. To further extend its product lines, Pulaski began manufacturing furniture for hotels and motels in 1998, and purchased Dawson Furniture of Missouri, a manufacturer of both promotional and unfinished furniture in 1999.
Pulaski also increasingly focused its attention on its curio cabinets. With adult collectors numbering more than 36 million in the United States in the late 1990s, and curio cabinets representing a domestic market with sales of about $500 million, the company began to introduce themed curio cabinets and lines of furniture. In 1996, it joined forces with Heilig-Meyers stores to unveil its 15-item Nascar-themed collection, featuring black-and-white checkered armchairs, toolbox end tables, and a curio for die-cast Nascar racers with carved car pediment and a mirrored racetrack background.
In 1998, Pulaski became a licensee for Precious Moments collectibles and began to make cabinets specifically to hold figurines. Another curio for golfers had tees set into glass shelves. And a cabinet for dolls, which accounted for 57 percent of the collectibles market, employed standard light bulbs because halogen bulbs, usual for most other curio cabinets, changed the color of a doll's hair. By 1999, Pulaski had sales exceeding $200 million, and curios represented half of its business.
- The company is founded by Thomas J. McCarthy, Sr., Fred A. Stanley, Sr., and Colin Richardson.
- Pulaski acquires the Morris Novelty Corporation of Martinsville, Virginia.
- The company changes its name from Pulaski Veneer and Furniture Corporation to Pulaski Furniture Corporation.
- Bernard Wampler becomes the chief executive officer.
- The company acquires a case goods plant in Dublin, Virginia.
- The company introduces its Keepsakes collection.
- Pulaski acquires Coleman Furniture; the company takes part in a joint venture to form Triwood.
- Pulaski purchases Ridgeway Clock.
- The company holds its initial public offering.
- Pulaski upgrades its original plant and acquires Craftique.
- Pulaski enters the seated upholstery business.
- Pulaski sells Triwood.
- The company sells Craftique and its seated upholstery business.
- The company purchases Dawson Furniture.
- Management leads a buyout with support from Quad-C Management; Pulaski closes its Martinsville, Virginia, plant and sells its Dublin, Virginia, plant.
In 2000, John Wampler and other senior executives, with the support of an affiliate of Quad-C Management, bought out the company for $125 million. That year's sales peaked at somewhere around $240 million. However, business dropped during the 2001 recession, leading to layoffs, and continued to shrink during the next three years in the face of increased import competition. By 2003, total sales had dropped to $160 million, moving Pulaski from its position as the 18th largest domestic furniture manufacturer and importer in 2001 to just outside the top 25 manufacturers.
Despite its contracting sales, Pulaski entered into a new licensing agreement with PBS in 2003 to produce its "Antiques Roadshow" Collection, 60 modern adaptations of American designs of the 1800s, including two bedroom and two dining room collections and accent pieces such as Bombay chests, curio cabinets, painted trunks, and grandfather clocks. "The collection is special," offered Wampler in a 2003 San Francisco Chronicle article. "It's authentic furniture based on real antiques, real people, and real stories about home furnishings." Each piece came with a logo and a hangtag complete with photo and history of the antique that inspired it.
Rather than close plants as domestic capacity decreased in the early 2000s, Pulaski sold facilities, first its Dublin and Martinsville, Virginia plant, and then, in late 2004, its Ridgeway Clock division to Howard Miller. These sales were part of a refining of focus led by Lawrence E. Webb, Jr., who became chief executive of Pulaski in 2003, to concentrate on bedroom, dining room, case goods, and occasional furniture. Under Webb, the company's different product lines were assigned to a specific plant of manufacture to create facilities better equipped to compete in a specific niche.
Furniture manufacturers as a group experienced an upswing in sales by 2004, in the long-term wake of 9/11 and Internet growth, as Americans spent more time at home. Pulaski's 2004 sales improved nearly five percent to an estimated $178 million and it added another line of furniture, the Casa Cristina collection, which targeted the growing population of Hispanic home owners.
In 2005, with revenues close to $200 million, Pulaski introduced a new lighting system in its curios in response to customer demand and reintroduced its line of Keepsakes curios and its Accentrics line of stand alone occasional items. The company was looking optimistically to the future. "When we asked customers about their … Pulaski curios and accent furniture, 96 percent of respondents said they were satisfied," Webb reported of a customer survey in a 2005 Furniture Today article. "Forty-two percent said they had plans to purchase another piece."
Ethan Allen; Furniture Brands International; Hooker Furniture; Thomasville; Lexington; Ashley Furniture; Bassett Furniture; Chromcraft Revington; Stanley Furniture
Evans, Lynette, "Everything Old Is New Again," San Francisco Chronicle, May 17, 2003, p. 1WB.
"Fast Forward," High Points, October 1996, p. 26.
Hamilton, William, L., "The Real You, Now on View," New York Times, November 18, 1999, p. F14.
Hinden, Stan, "Solid Profit Picture Builds Up Pulaski Furniture's Stock," Washington Post, May 19, 1986, p. 39.
Koncius, Jura, "Learning Latin; Furniture Plays to Hispanic Shoppers With a Spanish Talk-Show Star," Washington Post, December 2, 2004, p. H1.
Linville, Jeff, "Pulaski Eyes Growth," Furniture Today, June 6, 2005, p. 1.
"Pulaski Furniture Corporation." International Directory of Company Histories. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/pulaski-furniture-corporation
"Pulaski Furniture Corporation." International Directory of Company Histories. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/books/politics-and-business-magazines/pulaski-furniture-corporation