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Goodbye, Meadowcraft.

September 9, 2009

On Tuesday, Sept. 8, NPR ran an article about the bankruptcy of Meadowcraft. The teaser to the story was, “A wrought iron company closes after accounting scandal.” That headline stopped me in my tracks. Although no factory was mentioned by name in the teaser, I knew this had to be about Meadowcraft

If you missed it, you can read the whole story at:

As it turned out, the accounting scandal was mentioned in passing. The actual slant of the story was about the effect of the closing on the city of Wadley and its residents. The story reports that the town was poor before Meadowcraft moved in. It had a poverty rate of 31%. After the bankruptcy, Meadowcraft owed the city $100,000 in back utility bills. Local businesses were suffering because laid off factory employees stopped frequenting them. In turn, the city’s sales tax revenue dropped. Wadley was a poor city and is getting poorer due to no fault of their own.

The icing on the cake was this line, “. . . what frustrates locals: They’re suffering, even though Meadowcraft’s business was up. The company says it had plenty of orders from big retailers.” Isn’t that sad. The company didn’t go bankrupt because of the economy. Had it not been for poor management, they could have survived this recession.

Meadowcraft has gone through so many iterations. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s they ruled the specialty wrought iron industry. It was a tightly run, family owned business. Even though it had hundreds of employees, each was treated as a member of the family. The quality of its product was second to none at the time. It was a big line, well priced, that sold well. Honestly, it was the envy of the industry.

When the family sold it, the goals of the company changed. They went after the nascent big box industry. Production was ramped up at the expense of quality. SKU’s were dropped for reasons of efficiency. Specialty stores had to find other wrought iron sources.

Then, in the early part of this century, Meadowcraft went through another rebirth. This time, they went back to their roots. Quality improved and the product mix changed to make it more appealing to specialty stores. It seemed to be working because Meadwcraft started getting various industry design and quality awards.

That is not to say Meadowcraft didn’t still have problems. When we decided to carry them last year, quality was uneven and delivery was a problem. But the designs were good. And, if the NPR article is to be believed, they were getting plenty of orders from big retailers this year.

It makes me sad to see such a long time player leave the scene. But I am less sad than I am mad! I was taught from an early age that if I was lucky enough to be successful in life, I owed something to those who helped me get there. Therefore, I think every player in our industry should have two goals: be profitable and return some of that profit to your community. That’s why I got mad at Meadowcraft. I was mad because the company was run into the ground. I was mad because tt had down let its employees and the city of Wadley.  I was mad because by making the national news, Meadowcraft was giving our industry a black eye.

I don’t expect we will ever get an apology from Meadowcraft. At this point, what would an apology do anyway? Nor do I expect the bankruptcy court to do anything about unemployment in Wadley. They can’t reopen and run the plant. Too bad Meadowcraft management didn’t factor this into its business plan.

Yours in confused retailing, Bruce