Dave Moller
Senior Staff Writer

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June 19, 2008
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Furniture firm staying put, despite Texas reports

The new parent company of Furniture by Thurston, in Grass Valley, is expanding its manufacturing with 13 new employees, according to company officials.

"We've been buying new equipment for the Grass Valley plant. We're going to expand manufacturing," said plant manager Dan Slayton. "We're upgrading our computers and software, too, so we can integrate better" with the parent operation.

That's despite rumors that blazed through the Loma Rica plant late last week, where about 95 employees build as much as $100,000 daily in furniture destined for U.S. military bases and university campuses.

The company sells about $28 million in goods yearly, making it a significant contributor to the local economy. But worries it could be moving surfaced when a San Antonio newspaper and the Texas secretary of state's office reported Thurston's parent company was moving manufacturing operations elsewhere in the country to the Lone Star State.

Furniture by Thurston is growing and isn't going anywhere, Slayton said.

"Those rumors were floating through here, too," Slayton said. "I had a discussion with all the employees that we're a Grass Valley company and we are not leaving."

The firm has made furniture at the Loma Rica industrial area, adjacent to the Nevada County Airport, since 1980.

The company was sold to Dehler Manufacturing in November, a 50-year-old, Chicago-based manufacturer of steel furniture that also serves the U.S. Department of Defense, Postal Service, college dorms and health care facilities.

Former owner Lee Thurston, who operated the plant with his wife, Susan Thurston, said he was tired of fighting the cost of business in California; he had been paying as much as $500,000 yearly in workmen's compensation insurance premiums, he had reported earlier.

Dehler owns KLN Steel Products Co. of San Antonio, Texas, which is now the parent firm of Thurston. Edward Herman, CEO of KLN, did not return telephone calls for this report.

The merger with KLN brought more sales people into the picture for Furniture by Thurston, and the factory has to keep up with the new demand they've created, Slayton said.

In a June 12 story in the San Antonio Express-News and a press release from Texas Secretary of State Phil Wilson's office, it was announced KLN was going to consolidate its California and Illinois operations at a new plant in San Antonio, creating about 500 jobs for that area.

The story suggested Furniture by Thurston might move, and the press release indicated plant jobs and equipment would be moved from California and Illinois to the new San Antonio site.

In addition, Lee Thurston told The Union the machining part of the Grass Valley plant would move to San Antonio, taking about 10 of the plant's current 95 jobs.

But Slayton said no jobs would be moving from Grass Valley.

"I'm not sure what perspective (Thurston) was speaking from," Slayton said. "You don't invest money in new equipment for your current site to move it later."

Unlike home furniture businesses that have been slowed by the sour economy and Chinese competition, demand in the niche market Thurston serves, especially in California, is going strong, Slayton added.

"There have been no discussions of moving from Grass Valley," he said.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

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The Union Updated Jun 23, 2008 02:40AM Published Jun 19, 2008 03:00AM Copyright 2008 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.