What Ever Happened to Manchester Wood?


 


Manchester Wood was founded in 1976 and spent 42 years manufacturing solid wood furniture in the state of Vermont. At its peak, the company was generating $8-12 million per year in revenue and employed close to 200 people.

The founder, Clifford “Cliff” Pierce, built Manchester Wood into a multi-million dollar business by selling in bulk to retailers across the country. He had over 300 wholesale clients including LL Bean, Crate & Barrel, JC Penney, Sears, Pottery Barn, Macy’s, and more.

The business was known for building high-quality, solid wood furniture. The most popular products were mission style bookcases and sofa tables, adirondack chairs, and folding desks and tray tables. It was a multi-generation family business.

Timeline of the Rise & Fall of Manchester Wood

The story of Manchester Wood goes all the way back to the 1950’s. Its tragic fall lasted almost 2 decades until the business closed in 2018.

  • 1957: After returning from a several year stint serving in Korea for the US army, Cliff Pierce returns to New York and founds Pierce Industries in Walden, NY. The company specializes in manufacturing metal products.
  • 1976: Clifford “Cliff” Pierce sets up shop in Manchester, Vermont. The company begins by making small wood products like cutting boards, TV tray holders, and end tables.
  • Early 1980’s: Manchester Wood begins making solid wood furniture, notably Adirondack chairs. Throughout the 1980’s, the company’s designs and craftsmanship were recognized by major national retailers. Business picks up quickly.
  • 1986: Seeing the rapid growth of Manchester Wood, Cliff decides to sell Pierce Industries and focus his time on this growing woodworking operation in Vermont.
  • Late 1980’s: Supplying furniture to household names like LL Bean, Crate & Barrel, JC Penney, Sears, Pottery Barn, Macy’s, and more, Manchester Wood eyes expansion.
  • 1990: Manchester Wood moves it’s manufacturing from Manchester, Vermont into a new, state-of-the-art facility in Granville, New York (about 20 miles down the road). The company is employing about 100 people.
  • 2006: Manchester Wood makes a play to go direct-to-consumer.
  • 2008: Manchester Wood founder Cliff Pierce passes away at the age of 78.
  • 2013: New website launched. Employment down to ~55.
  • 2018: Manchester Wood announces on August 2 via social media that they will be closing operations. Liquidation sale ensues and the last day of sales is September 23, 2018.

The Story of Manchester Wood

Manchester Wood was founded by Cliff Pierce in 1976. He had moved from New York to Vermont and opened his woodshop while simultaneously running his metal work company that he started 20 years prior.

The company grew quickly through partnerships with nationwide retailers. Looking to expand production capacities, the business moved into a larger manufacturing facility in Granville, New York in 1990 (only about 20 miles from their previous location in Manchester, Vermont).

They relied heavily on the network of retailers that they had established in the 80’s and 90’s. But by the early 2000’s the US furniture market was beginning to take a hit from imported products from overseas.

When asked about the challenges they faced while running Manchester Wood, Ed remarked that an increase in foreign imports had put downward pressure on the prices of American made furniture.

Manchester Wood Website
Manchester Wood was most known for their mission style tables, folding desks/tray tables, and outdoor adirondack furniture.

To counter, the business made an effort to establish a direct-to-consumer channel in 2006. They ran a showroom in Granville, New York, and tried to sell online with an ecommerce website, but to little avail. Their ecommerce business never took off.

Struggling to maintain their partnerships with nationwide retailers due to the prevalence of imported furniture, the business was declining. They downsized production by decreasing the work schedule from 5 to 3 days per week.

Their combined efforts of downsizing production and focusing on direct-to-consumer sales didn’t pay dividends. The business announced it was closing via social media on August 2nd, 2018, and sold its last piece of furniture on September 23rd that same year.

The Legacy of Manchester Wood

Manchester Wood Branded into the arm of an Adirondack Chair

Although the business is no longer operational, Manchester Wood left its mark on the Vermont furniture industry.

We’ve often written about the plethora of woodworking talent and long history of furniture craftsmanship here in Vermont. Manchester Wood was one of the top contributors to that legacy of Vermont craftsmanship during its time in business.

The craftsmen who were formerly employed at Manchester Wood have gone on to build their own furniture businesses, albeit smaller ones. There are many craftsmen in the Manchester area who create one-of-a-kind, custom wood furniture. These small businesses represent a significant chunk of the Vermont economy, generating revenue, keeping the art of woodworking alive, and creating jobs for others in the state.

If you’re looking to purchase Manchester Wood furniture, eBay, LetGo, and Craigslist are probably your best bet.

If you’re looking for eco-friendly, solid wood furniture that’s made in the USA, look no further. Check out our catalog of Vermont made wood furniture.

Sources

Already following our Blog? For more info sign up for our e-newsletter

Sign up now

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Riley Farabaugh

Riley Farabaugh

The youngest son of co-founders Peggy and Ken Farabaugh, Riley has filled different roles within the organization since it was founded out of a spare bedroom in the family home in 2005. As the son of the first Vermont Woods Studios craftsmen, Riley has been quickly learning more and more about woodworking, sustainable forestry, and the ins-and-outs of the furniture industry.