Henkel-Harris employees told furniture plant will close soon

Posted: October 30, 2012

The Winchester Star

Management at furniture manufacturer Henkel-Harris, 2983 S. Pleasant Valley Road, sent a letter to employees Monday informing them that their employment would end in 60 days “with the closure of our facility here.” The letter cited the poor economy as the reason behind the closure. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Karline Davis of Winchester works on a Chippendale-style chair Friday at Henkel-Harris furniture. Sales have declined in the past few years and the city’s plant will close Dec. 31.

WINCHESTER — Henkel-Harris employees received a letter Monday stating that the city-based furniture plant will close Dec. 31.

Multiple calls to Henkel-Harris and to president Bill Henkel went unanswered on Monday.

The letter tells workers — as of 2011, the local company had 115 — that their employment will discontinue in 60 days “with the closure of our facility here at 2983 South Pleasant [Valley] Road.”

It states that the reason for the closure is due to the struggling economy and furniture business.

“Our struggle has reached the point where we need to make certain adjustments because we really have no choice,” said the letter from Henkel-Harris management.

The letter continues: “It is our hope and desire that Henkel-Harris will not close permanently and that as the economy improves, demand will improve to the point that we may be able to recommence manufacturing.”

Launched in 1946, Henkel-Harris — which specializes in faithful reproductions of 18th-century furniture — is a Winchester institution.

Carroll and Mary Henkel established the business with family friend John Harris.

Harris later sold his shares of the company, and when Carroll died in 1969, Mary Henkel took the helm. She died in 2001.

The furniture business has taken a hit the past few years, and Henkel-Harris has been no exception.

In 2011, annual orders totaled about $12 million. A few years ago, before the economic downturn, sales were in the $25 million to $30 million range.

Five years ago, the factory had 310 workers.

The company will suspend orders for new manufacturing while continuing to work through current and previous orders.

The letter states that the company will recognize accrued vacation and retirement and service awards for those who have earned them. But beginning immediately, the company will not pay for holidays.

Bruce Patton, partner at Patton’s Furniture on 29 S. Loudoun St., said his store wouldn’t be affected by the closure after it began reducing the amount of Henkel-Harris furniture sold a couple of years ago.

“We used to do real well with it, but then the recession came,” he said. “People just don’t have the money to put out for high-priced furniture.”

“I hate to see them go,” he added. “It’s quality, and you just won’t see that again.”

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com