Summit Notebook

Exclusive outtakes from industry leaders

Ethan Allen fills up its (tastefully upholstered) bench

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The recession wasn’t kind to Ethan Allen’s manufacturing plant workers, but now that the economy is recovering, so are the employment rolls. Last year, the Danbury, Connecticut-based furniture maker and retailer slashed its manufacturing workforce by about 30 percent, Farooq Kathwari, the company’s chairman and chief executive, told the Reuters Consumer and Retail Summit in New York on Monday. That included closing a plant or cutting jobs in Chino, California; Andover, Maine;  Orleans, Vermont and elsewhere.

I could not pinpoint exactly how many jobs he was talking about, and Kathwari did not immediately have the numbers handy, but according to the Ethan Allen website, it looks like they lost 65 workers in Chino and about 320 in Maine and Vermont. Meanwhile, the company said in 2009 that it planned to add some 300 more jobs to its larger facility in  North Carolina, where it had 540 employees as of a year ago.  The published numbers suggest that Ethan Allen cut a little more than 40 percent of its manufacturing staff, while Kathwari at today’s interview said it was about a third. Either way, he told us, “In about six months, about half have been added back.”

At a time when lots of economists and experts are telling us that we’ve been experiencing a “jobless recovery” in the United States, it’s heartening to hear that there’s at least one place in this great, big country where you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to afford that $2,000 tango louver door armoire when, instead, you can build one yourself.

(Photo: Reuters)

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