Behind the Nantanna Mill in Northfield flows the Dog River. The river is calm on this day, but just over a year ago the waters raged with a fury not seen before. The Dog River jumped its banks and overtook the mill.
Tropical Storm Irene destroyed the building high end corporate furniture-maker Wall Goldfinger has called home for 41 years. The company is known for its quality and craftsmanship, making tables for some of the most powerful board rooms in the world, from the White House situation room to the New York Stock Exchange. But Irene wreaked havoc on this business.
"It was nearly the end," said John Wall of Wall Goldfinger. "It was a big hit."
The river rushed through the building with a force no one expected.
"When the Dog jumped the banks and blew in the back door the water in our shop went from 2-3 inches to 7 feet in about 10 minutes. It was a river coming through. We were lucky to get all five of us upstairs," Wall said.
But the water surged upstairs as well, missing the company's high end creations by inches. With an average cost of $200,000 per table, they had a lot to lose.
How would they get Bain Capital's order out the next day; a lucrative contract with one of the world's largest financial companies. The White House was also calling wondering whether to cancel an order after seeing video on YouTube.
"We had the White House and we had Bain Capital and everyone stuck with us. And it wasn't pretty, but we got everything delivered," Wall said.
With insurance money, business loans and little creative language, Wall Goldfinger pressed on.
"We couldn't lose our orders," Wall said. "You have to keep them going. You have to pretend this isn't a problem. You tell them we're having a little moisture problem, we'll fix it."
After 52 weeks and 15 dumpsters full of destroyed equipment and materials, the company set up shop 20 miles away at the old Ethan Allen furniture plant in Randolph.
"Much bigger, cleaner, more professional," Wall said.
If there's a bright side to Irene, Wall says it actually allowed the company to relocate because they wouldn't have had the financial means or the motivation without it.
The flood destroyed close to $2 million worth of equipment in the old factory, but all of that has been replaced by brand new more efficient tools, like brand new routers costing half a million dollars. Now, Wall Goldfinger is bigger and better in every sense. Sales have grown and profits are up.
"It was hard to think it was all for the good, but finally we're starting to feel that way," Wall said.
It's a Vermont company gaining ground after losing so much in a historic Vermont storm.
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