Posted on Tue, Jul. 29, 2008
New owner reopens shuttered factory in Valdese
By Jen Aronoff
Little more than a month ago, it appeared the lights would go out for good at the Hickory Hill
furniture plant in Burke County, which was set to close amid corporate consolidation.
But Monday, an Ohio-based upholstered furniture company announced it has bought and started
production at the factory, making it an unusual reversal – and bright spot – in a landscape and
region dotted with empty, sprawling brick buildings that serve as reminders of a lost industrial past.
Kellex Corp. plans to hire more than 50 people and to invest $1.7million in sprucing up and updating
the plant in Valdese, about 70 miles northwest of Charlotte.
The 354,000-square-foot complex had employed about 160 but shut down early this month, town
manager Jeff Morse said.
Among the clients it had made furniture for was Kellex, which primarily serves the hospitality, time-
share and health care industries – including major hotel chains such as Hilton, Marriott, Starwood
and Ritz-Carlton. When Kellex heard the plant was closing, it became interested in buying the
building to expand.
In addition to placing contract orders within the United States, Kellex also manufactures some of its
own products. That's what it plans to do in Valdese: The plant will focus on making a new line of
sleeper sofas for the hospitality industry.
“We're a very domestic-driven company,” president Chris Rice said. “Our goal is to provide
opportunities (in the U.S.) for those who want to work … There's a lot of good craftsmanship in this
Kellex, based in suburban Cleveland, also has a sales office in Hickory. Even as the overall U.S.
furniture industry has suffered, the company has grown, and it expects more than $25 million in
sales this year, Rice said.
The company has been able to compete because it custom-makes its furniture and can get it to
customers faster than products made in the low-cost Asian factories that have siphoned U.S. jobs