Pulaski Furniture

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A maker of wood furniture based in Virginia, the Pulaski Furniture Company got its start in 1955 with a single plant in a small, economically depressed town. Since that time, company executives have expanded the business by filling niche markets for goods like occasional furniture, curio cabinets and grandfather clocks, as well as fine, upscale furniture suites.

Early Years

  • Fred Stanley, Sr., and C.B. Richardson founded the Pulaski Furniture Corporation in 1955 in the small Virginia town of the same name. The partners procured a closed RCA Victor plant in downtown Pulaski and began manufacturing modestly priced bedroom furniture as the Pulaski Veneer and Furniture Corporation.

    The first years were sometimes difficult as the company struggled to maintain cash flow and meet its financial obligations. But in 1960, Pulaski acquired the Morris Novelty Corporation, a maker of occasional furniture like small tables, in a move that proved to be a turning point for the company.

    When it bought Morris Novelty, Pulaski also acquired a second manufacturing plant in Martinsville, Va. The owners then made a critical decision to add elaborate veneers and decorative woodwork to many of their products, which helped distinguish Pulaski furniture pieces from those made by competing firms.

New Markets

  • In 1976, Pulaski introduced its Keepsake Collection, a group of nostalgic furniture pieces like shaving stands and hall trees, all made from golden oak. The collection soon became the furniture industry’s best-selling case goods line. When demand for the Keepsake Collection started to slacken, Pulaski began to manufacture curio cabinets, to hold dish sets and collectibles. In the 1980s, the company was making player pianos and telephone booths for the home.

    The acquisition in 1985 of the Gravely Furniture Corporation, which manufactured mantel, wall and grandfather clocks, opened up an entirely new market for Pulaski. The company also negotiated a series of shrew licensing deals, including one that gave Pulaski the right to make Lady Liberty commemorative grandfather clocks for the celebration of the Statue of Liberty’s centennial in 1986. Pulaski sold nearly 2,000 units of that clock alone. The company then acquired Craftique, a manufacturer of solid mahogany reproduction furniture, in 1988.

Going Overseas

  • Pressured by rising labor and production costs, in 1989, Pulaski began importing unfinished furniture components from Asia, which were then assembled in the plant at Pulaski, Va. The company began to expand its sales overseas in this period, bringing in about 8 percent of its sales from foreign markets in 1993. It also invested heavily in cutting-edge computerized machines to improve efficiency and cut costs in its American plants.

Going Upscale

  • Craftique, the Pulaski subsidiary, won the right in 1996 to build furniture based on the work of free black cabinetmaker Thomas Day, who worked in antebellum North Carolina. The collection included 18 designs modeled after three museum pieces and 15 pieces of furniture in private hands, all made from Honduran mahogany cut from renewable forests. The pieces look quite distinctive, with their elaborate silhouettes and decorative touches, and carry correspondingly high price tags.

New Opportunities

  • Pulaski has continued to acquire subsidiaries that would give it advantages in new arenas of the furniture industry, to cultivate foreign markets, and to develop new furniture collections based on current tastes and trends. Presently, two of its most prominent collections are the Casa Cristina Collection, inspired by Cristina Saralegui, and the Build-a-Bear Workshop Home. The Keepsakes line of display and curio cabinets continues to be an important factor in increasing the company’s sales. In 1999, Pulaski reported worldwide sales of $198.2 million, which represented a 15 percent increase over the previous year.

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