Closing of Kincaid plant will ripple through Hudson

Apr. 22, 2014 @ 10:22 AM

For years, employees at the Kincaid Furniture plant in Hudson filed into the Food Fare convenience store on Main Street, right across the plant's sprawling parking lot.

"It was great here," store manager Johnny Moretz said. "On Thursdays, when they would get paid, there would be three lines at the counter."

Now, they trickle in.

In a few months, they will stop coming in altogether. Employees at the plant were told Wednesday that La-Z-Boy Inc., which bought Kincaid in 1988, will close the doors for good in September.

"I figured it would happen," Moretz said. "An employee told me Tuesday. I hate it. I've seen so many people, good customers, go. It hurts. It affects us that we will lose that much business."

La-Z-Boy said it is ceasing all U.S. casegoods manufacturing.

The company is not exiting Hudson entirely because it will close two warehouse and repair facilities in North Wilkesboro by the end of 2014 and move that work to Hudson, a La-Z-Boy press release said

But Donald Walker, who has worked in the plant's cabinet room since 1992, said the plant's 100 workers were told there will no jobs available in Hudson for the laid-off furniture workers.

"I was not at the meeting on Wednesday when the president and vice-president of Kincaid called the meeting," Walker said. "I was at home because I had hurt my hand. I talked to my plant manager the next day. He said some might be able to transfer to (an upholstered-furniture plant in) Taylorsville, but 99 percent don't want to drive that far."

Walker said he will try to find furniture work elsewhere.

"I hate to trade jobs, but I gues I'll have to," he said.

The changes, along with the planned sale of La-Z-Boy's youth-furniture business, are part of a restructuring, Chief Executive Kurt L. Darrow said in a press release.

“We have implemented many changes to our casegoods manufacturing model over the past few years to be more competitive. However, in the final analysis, we determined we cannot generate enough domestic volume to support the size facility we operate in North Carolina and believe this move will strengthen our positioning and performance in the segment,” Darrow said.

By the end of this year, the two North Wilkesboro facilities, which together are approximately 520,000 square feet, and the wood-working equipment from the Hudson plant will be up for sale, Darrow said.

The Hudson plant handles bedroom furniture for the Kincaid and American Drew Lines, which combined account for about 12 percent of the company's wood-furniture business, the company said. Those lines will remain but will be transitioned to all-imported furniture.

The company also will exit the hospitality-furniture business as that furniture is also manufactured in Hudson, its press release said.

At Donna's Cafe, about a mile south of the Kincaid plant, most days about a dozen Kincaid workers stop in on their half-hour lunch break, but owner Donna Greer is expecting business to be a lot more days like it has been on Fridays, when the plant is closed.

"I'm really depressed a plant that's been here so long would shut down," Greer said. Kincaid was founded in Hudson in 1946. "It's sad for all the employees, but it's no surprise. We'll miss them all."