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Thomas Russell

Report: High-end manufacturer Henkel Harris to close

WINCHESTER, Va. — Henkel Harris, a longtime manufacturer specializing in high-end 18th and 19th century case goods, plans to close its doors later this year, according to a report on the Winchester Star.com.

The newspaper said Tuesday that the company sent a letter to employees Monday stating that their employment will discontinue in 60 days with the closure of its plant here. The paper said the letter attributed this to the "struggling economy and furniture business."

Company officials Furniture/Today attempted to reach on Monday and Tuesday were not available for comment. A recorded message at the headquarters said the company was closed due to inclement weather, but was expected to reopen Wednesday.

One employee said that the company had scheduled a meeting Wednesday morning and that officials would be able to share more information after that.

Henkel Harris was formed in 1946 by Carroll and Mary Henkel. The couple, along with a family friend John Harris, built their first piece of furniture, a reproduction cabinet, in their basement, according to a company history posted on the Henkel Harris website.

By 1954, the company employed 22 workers. That same year, John Harris sold his interest in the company to Carroll and Mary Henkel, and the business continued as Henkel Harris.

Carroll Harris died in 1969. Mary Harris ran the business after his death and remained at the helm until 1982.

That year, their son William "Bill" M. Henkel was named president and CEO. Mary Henkel continued as chairman of the board and was chairman emeritus at the time of her death in 2001. She was named to the American Furniture Hall of Fame in 1996, becoming the second woman to receive the honor.

Today Henkel Harris employs about 115 workers in its Winchester, Va., factory and headquarters operation. Its 2011 sales were estimated at $12 million.

The Winchester Star reported that the company will continue to produce existing orders. It will determine this week what other pieces in the line it can produce between now and the end of the year, a source said.

The company has long been known for its traditional designs. It has updated this line with a number of new finishes and transitional designs. But industry sources say that as customers came to rely on the company for its 18th and 19th century inspired looks, it was difficult for it to break out of that mold.

"They were purveyors of that American 18th century mahogany look and they excelled at it," said Don Wright, president of wood furniture manufacturer Wright Table Co. "Times changed."

"I just think it's a shame," he said of the planned closing. "You have a number of people that are highly skilled and they are out of work. It's a terrible thing to do."

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