What Ever Happened to Vermont Tubbs Furniture?

Vermont Tubbs signage on wood bed dated 2002
Vermont Tubbs signage on an ash wood bed signed by Lewis in 2002 (Image Source)

Vermont Tubbs was founded in 1840 and spent close to 170 years manufacturing wood furniture in Brandon, VT. In the early 2000’s, the company was generating an estimated $16 million per year and employed 250+ people, but it was struggling to turn a profit.

Vermont Tubbs furniture operated mostly as a wholesale business, selling swaths of furniture to retail stores all over the country, including LL Bean, Jordan’s Furniture, Bloomingdales, Restoration Hardware, and Crate & Barrel.

The brand was known for high quality craftsmanship, solid wood construction, and traditional designs. It was a heavy influence on the rich history of furniture making in the state of Vermont.

Here is an overview of the company released as part of it’s brand profile:

At Vermont Tubbs we are proud of the furniture that we create. Over time, we have maintained a tradition of enduring design, careful craftsmanship, superior service and a progressive company philosophy. We know that you and your family will be proud to own our handcrafted furniture for generations. Vermont Tubbs is ‘A home furnishings company where individuals enjoy working together as a team creating fine handcrafted products for the discriminating buyer.’

The Rise & Fall of a Classic Vermont Furniture Maker

Unfortunately, Vermont Tubbs is no longer in business. After more than 150 years of operating in Vermont, the company was struggling financially. The business sold a large ownership stake in 2003. It was then acquired fully in 2008 by a furniture manufacturer in New Hampshire. Five years later the company went bankrupt.

Here’s a timeline of the history of Vermont Tubbs:

  • 1840: Company Founded
  • 2000: Company generates $16m in revenue with 255 employees
  • 2001: Company generates $14.7m in revenue. Employment down to 140
  • 2002: Company generates almost $12m in revenue. Employment down to 120. Owner William Carris puts company on the market for sale.
  • 2003: Vermont Tubbs- “on the edge of bankruptcy” –  sold to private investors Fred Musone & Jon McNeil. Employment down to 80
  • 2008: Vermont Tubbs sold to BSF Transition LLC, an affiliate of Brown Street Furniture of Whitefield, NH. Annual revenue down to ~$6.5m. Manufacturing plant relocated from Brandon, VT to Whitefield, NH
  • 2013: Brown Street Furniture files for bankruptcy

Key Players in the Rise and Fall of Vermont Tubbs

  • William Carris: Owner of Carris Financial Holdings and majority owner of Vermont Tubbs until it’s sale in 2003.
  • Lee Houston: A consultant and chief executive hired by Carris in 2002 to help turn the business around. Grew up in NC and spent much of his 30+ year career working with furniture manufacturing facilities.
  • Jon McNeill: Private investor and Vermont native who purchased the company in 2003. Has founded multiple companies, consulted with Bain & Co, and says his team specializes in “creating and turning around businesses.” He has since gone on to serve as a high-ranking executive at Tesla, Lululemon, and Enservio and is the current COO of Lyft. He’s been recognized as one of the most innovative CEOs in the country (2002), an Entrepreneur of the Year (2012), and Boston’s Most Admired CEO (2013).
  • Fred Musone: Private investor who joined McNeill on his investment in 2003. Had an impressive career helping manufacturing businesses follow the modern principles of lean manufacturing established by Toyota.
  • Kyle & Adam Tager: Twins and co-owners of BSF Transition, LLC, which bought Vermont Tubbs in 2008, along with Brown Street Furniture that same year. The Tager brothers also owned Mystic Valley Traders, a linen manufacturer in Massachusetts.
  • Elwin Wright: Founder and co-owner of BSF Transition, LLC along with the Tager brothers

In 2003, while undergoing a change in ownership, the company cited “dumping from china” as a major reason why sales were declining. Houston noted in 2003 that imported furniture from China had taken over 40% of the US furniture market, a once thriving manufacturing industry.

Asked about China’s competitive edge in the US furniture industry, Lee Houston critiqued that Chinese workers “live in slavery to the central government, and manufacturing plants dont have to worry about environmental regulations.”

The Legacy of Vermont Tubbs

Although the business is no longer operational, Vermont Tubbs 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. Perhaps no company is more responsible for that history than Vermont Tubbs.

Founded in 1840, Vermont Tubbs preceded many of the other classic Vermont furniture manufacturers like HT Cushman (1892-1971)  and Ethan Allen (no longer manufactured in Vermont). It grew mightily and helped establish Vermont as one of the leading states for woodworking talent in the US.

Asked about the talented furniture craftsmen in the state of Vermont, Musone replied, “the quality and commitment of the people who work for Tubbs is just impressive. They are resilient and committed.” Houston remarked, “[Vermont has] the finest workforce I’ve ever seen.”

If you’re looking for vintage furniture from Vermont Tubbs, Craigslist, eBay, and LetGo are probably your best bets.

If you’re looking to buy high quality, vermont made furniture, there’s no better place than here.

Sources:

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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.