It all started with a 28-piece line of early American furnishings named after Vermont war hero Ethan Allen. Now, 80 years later, it's one of the country's largest interior design companies with sales hitting $729 million last year.
"I'll tell you what has not changed-- constant reinvention," said Farooq Kathwari, the president and CEO of Ethan Allen.
Ethan Allen Furniture began in Beecher Falls. That facility is still around, along with this one producing custom pieces in Orleans. There are four other production plants in the U.S. and two out of the country. The company is now headquartered in Connecticut. Seventy percent of its products are made in the U.S., a rarity in today's furniture world.
"We provide quality and options that if you are making a commodity you cannot do. So that helps us maintain manufacturing in the U.S.," Kathwari said.
The Vermont facility is still a large part of what Ethan Allen produces. It turns out almost $380,000 worth of furniture each and every day.
One quarter of the companies wood furniture products are made in the Orleans facility, which has over 350 employees. That's down from a high around 700 a decade ago. But the company has increased its workforce following the recession.
Kathwari has been with the company since 1989 and says although the impact of globalization has taken most manufacturing out of the country, it's important to keep jobs here.
Reporter Gina Bullard: Why keep this facility in Vermont?
Farooq Kathwari: We have a lot of investment here; we have work experience. That's talent.
Kathwari says there are challenges when it comes to staying in Vermont. In 2001, Ethan Allen closed its Island Pond plant, putting 130 people out of work.
"Electrical costs in Vermont are very high," Kathwari said.
But 11 years after that big layoff, Ethan Allen has invested over $35 million in equipment and technology between Beecher Falls and Orleans, equipment that now allows the companies furniture to represent the best of the world.
"At Ethan Allen it represents the diversity of America," Kathwari said.
Ethan Allen currently has 300 stores, 73 of which are in China.
To celebrate 80 years, Ethan Allen has come out with a new line of brightly colored furniture. They're calling it "American Colors."
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