Category Archives: Life & Leisure

Photo provided by Davidson County Historical Museum and the H. Lee Waters Collection.

Furniture, Fire, and Smokestacks: The Legend and Fervor behind Dixie Furniture

By Antionette Kerr

In the decades following the Civil War, the United States emerged as an industrial giant. Railroads expanded significantly, bringing even remote parts of the country into a national market economy. At the turn of the century, what was described as a U.S. technology revolution revived old industries, seeing them expand and many new ones emerge, including petroleum refining, steel manufacturing, electrical power and, of course, furniture.

Lexington has a rich history. But what was it like before the local manufacturing revolution sparked by a small furniture company organized by Dr. E.J. Buchanan in January 1901? It’s indeed hard to envision. The Dixie Furniture Company commenced operating in its newly-built plant in April. Its first-year output was worth $150,000, give or take. By 1925, the company’s yearly product, which by then consisted exclusively of walnut bedroom furniture, had tripled in value. That $450,000 per year worth of furniture placed it in the median of the ten furniture factories operating in Davidson County in the mid-1920s.

During its first quarter century, the company operated without break, except for four months in 1904. According to Statesville, N.C.’s The Landmark newspaper edition of April 26, 1904, “A fire, which originated in the dry kiln or engine room of the Dixie Furniture Company’s factory to night (sic), destroyed that plant, the electric light plant, four dwelling houses and two cars belonging to the Southern Railway Company. The loss is estimated at $90,000. The Dixie Furniture Company plant was totally destroyed, with about all the valuable lumber on the yard. Close by was the electric light plant, which soon went up in smoke, with four dwelling houses near by (sic), and two cars of the Southern Railway. With nothing to combat the flames, they burned everything in reach.”

The fire of 1904 threatened the future of furniture manufacturing in Lexington. According to The Dispatch, “Fortunately for the town, the wind was favorable. The Lexington Grocery Company’s building caught on fire, but was put out. The losses, as best I can get them, are: Dixie Furniture Company, $75,000, insurance, $30,000; electric light plant, $8,000, insurance not known. Holt Walker, Frank Clodfelter, Frank Osborne and James Adderton each lost a dwelling, worth, all told, about $3,000. Their household effects were saved.”
Growth and sales had stagnated by the early 1930s, which prompted a brief merger with the Elk Furniture Company located opposite Dixie on the south side of the railroad tracks. Dixie corporate secretary Henry Talmadge Link was named vice president of the new Elk-Dixie operation.

In 1936, the Elk-Dixie merger was dissolved. Elk reemerged as the United Furniture Company and Dixie became the Dixie Furniture Company once again with Link as president. Joining Link in the business were J. Smith Young, his nephew, Bruce Hinkle, his son-in-law, and Frank Taylor.

Link got an idea after a trip to Detroit to see the Ford assembly plant in 1940. He revolutionized the furniture industry with the introduction of automatic conveyors and mass production techniques to move furniture from one stage of assembly to the next. Roughly ten years later, four separate companies emerged, each with its own specialty. Moderately-priced bedroom furnishings were produced under the Dixie name, Link-Taylor crafted fine solid-wood bedroom and dining furnishings, Young Hinkle specialized in boys’ bedroom furniture, and Henry Link focused on girls’ bedroom furniture. Beginning in the 1970s, Henry Link was one of the first companies to popularize casual wicker furnishings.

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Photo provided by Davidson County Historical Museum and the H. Lee Waters Collection.

As sales increased, Dixie expanded throughout downtown Lexington, buying and renovating adjacent factory buildings and constructing new ones until the complex covered nine city blocks and 31 acres. Link greatly expanded the company in the next four-plus decades, at the site under discussion and at new plants elsewhere in Lexington and in Asheboro and Linwood in North Carolina. Link became a prominent figure in the North Carolina and American furniture industry. Under his guidance, Dixie and three other affiliated companies—Link-Taylor (1949-1950), Young Hinkle (1962), and Dixie-Linwood (1972) — made the conglomerate one of the largest furniture manufacturers in the world.

It was a flourishing time for Lexington. “Even as a child, we told time by the bells at Dixie,” said Billy Arnette, whose family of twelve lived in the basement of a nearby church. His parents had left their farm in Washington, GA. for the promise of industry and opportunity in Lexington. Arnette, like other men in his family, quit school as early as eighth grade for the lure of an education in the factory dubbed “Dixie University.”

According to a 1982 Furniture Today Magazine article, the re-formed Dixie Furniture “started with eighty-six people, five salesmen, and three hundred customers.” At the time of the Furniture Today article, the company had “eight plants with five million-square-feet of floor space, 4,000 employees, 100 salesmen and over 10,000 customers at home and abroad.” Link, who was regarded by some in the industry as the Henry Ford of furniture, died in Lexington in 1983. The innovator’s name would be added to the American Furniture Hall of Fame in 1998.

By 1986, the Dixie Furniture Company was part of a group of four companies officially named Lexington Furniture Industries (LFI) — often referred to as “the Dixie Family.” LFI used the Dixie facility in Lexington to produce its Lexington Home Brands line of furniture. In 1986, the Dixie Family had ten plants with an eleventh under construction, and LFI was the largest manufacturer of bedroom furniture across the globe and the tenth largest furniture manufacturer in the U.S. Long one of the most recognized names in wicker, casual, and occasional furnishings, Henry Link’s innovative and high quality casual products continue today as Lexington’s Henry Link Trading Company brand.

According to The Dispatch, “Although Dixie Furniture president Smith Young saw continued growth for the overall company in 1986, the Dixie complex of buildings had reached its apex. The last building added to the complex was Building 20, a finishing and spraying room at just over 37,500 square feet that had been erected in 1983. In 1987, less than a year after Young issued his sunny forecast for the company, LFI sold its Dixie Family, including the Dixie Furniture Company, to Masco Furniture Company of Taylor, Mich.”
Outsourcing resulted in the plant closing in summer 2003.

Production at the nearly one million-square-foot Plant 1, primarily bedroom and occasional pieces, was consolidated in Plant 2, which was about 750,000 square feet. “The plant’s long history and skilled workforce made the decision to close it particularly difficult,” Bob Stec, Lexington chairman and chief executive officer, informed The Dispatch. “The facility’s age and layout, and the company’s increasing use of imports, prompted the shutdown.”

Unfortunately, 75 to 80 percent of the 516 employees in the century-old Plant 1 faced layoffs. Some transferred to other plants. Layoffs began in mid-October [2003] and continued for several months as operations were phased out and production was transferred. It was no surprise to those who knew that the U.S. furniture industry started out in the Northeast (New York, Pennsylvania, New England), then moved to the Midwest, and then the South. Each relocation change was basically to a region with more cost-effective manufacturing and a generous supply of excellent quality hardwood lumber.

Current City Councilman Jim Myers explained in simpler terms: “We were originally making all of the furniture here in the United States. It became apparent it was cheaper to buy furniture overseas and have it shipped back here.” Myers began in product development in 1993 and worked for Lexington Home Brands until his retirement in 2007. His last title was senior vice-president in product development.

He recalls going through several sales with the company. “It changed about three times after I joined,” said Myers, who wanted to correct the notion that Dixie closed. “They never closed. That’s a false assumption. People don’t understand what happened.” He called Lexington Home Brands a “marketing company,” noting that he no longer has a financial ownership in the company. “They buy furniture [from China, Indonesia and Thailand], store it and sell it.”

In the midst of a growing trade deficit, the U.S. faced the dilemma of exporting more raw materials such as “hardwood and lumber” and importing “finished hardwood products such as furniture, flooring and mouldings.” Some took note of the change, according to “The U.S. Furniture Industry: Yesterday and Today … Will There Be a Tomorrow?” (Wood Digest, June 2007). The Dixie, Dixie Family, and LFI model was also touted by industry leaders. The idea of “centers of excellence” or “competitive clusters” was championed by Michael Porter, the management guru and author of the books The Competitive Advantage of Nations, Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Competitive Performance, and I.

“A cluster is a geographically proximate group of interconnected companies and associated institutions in a particular field, linked by commonalities and complementarities,” said Porter. “Prior to globalization, a strong and large company with lots of resources could conceivably compete and be profitable for a time, even decades; however, today that company is competing with clusters from other countries, not the ‘sawmill in the next valley.’”

Eventually, operations of Lexington Home Brands moved to the Thomasville showroom. The building known as Plant 1 was sold to the city with a lease agreement with LHB that proved to be mutually beneficial. The promise of development in the abandoned footprint of the “Dixie Empire” was left to city and local business leaders. A nine-person Redevelopment Commission was formed to explore the future of the district. But plans for the building that once housed Dixie Furniture Plant 1 went up in flames as a mysterious fire destroyed Plant 1 on December 19, 2017.

As feelings of nostalgia were ignited, the city released the following statement, “The City realizes that it is an emotional time for people who grew up living around and working in the Dixie Furniture plant. The City wants to assure its citizens that something positive will come out of this fire. Mayor Newell Clark points out that Lexington is resilient and says it will bounce back from this.”

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Photo provided by Davidson County Historical Museum and the H. Lee Waters Collection.

“I was really disappointed. It surprised me that it caught on fire. There shouldn’t have ever been a spark. Nothing was running. They didn’t have any electricity on that particular part,” Myers remarked. “It didn’t surprise me how fast it went up. There was a lot of dust and finished material on the walls. It was a powder keg.”

At the time of the interview, no progress had been made on determining the cause of the fire. “I am not sure we will ever know. The fire safety people are concerned about getting in there and the walls falling down on them. It’s not worth it. What difference would it make if we did know?” Myers continued.

Concern has also been expressed that tampering with the building could jeopardize the iconic Dixie Furniture smokestack that survived the blaze. “It’s still there and maybe it can be propped up somehow,” Myers concluded.

Engineers are working with the city about plans to preserve what is left of a legacy of furniture giants that went up in flames. The future of the building might be a bit hazy, but the legacy of Dixie Furniture shall not be forgotten.

Sources: Furniture Today, The Lexington Dispatch, Wood Digest, City of Lexington MMTS EA, Pathfinders Past and Present: A History of Davidson County North Carolina by M. Jewell Sink and Mary Green Matthews.

 

TIMELINE OF THE DECEMBER 19, 2017 FIRE AT THE OLD LEXINGTON FURNITURE PLANT
Dec. 19
2:00 a.m. An initial fire broke out in a space behind the historic Dixie smokestack.
3:30 a.m. Fire crews brought the initial fire under control. The cause of that fire is undetermined, but suspicious.
Crews continue to monitor the area throughout the day to check for a possible hidden fire or a
spot where the fire could rekindle.
5:15 p.m. Smoke was spotted and Lexington firefighters quickly respond.
5:30 p.m. Salisbury and Thomasville crews arrive at the scene.
Dec. 20
1:00 a.m. The fire is brought under control.
2:00 p.m. City of Lexington officials hold a press conference at Fire Station 1 to discuss details with the media.
Dixie Furniture was known for furniture refinishing and chemicals used in that process had
seeped into the walls over the years, making firefighting difficult. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

Cover photos and additional supporting imagery provided by Davidson County Historical Museum and the H. Lee Waters Collection.

CooperRoad

Cooper Road Collection – Business Spotlight

Upon seeing the quaint Uptown Lexington district after relocating to be closer to her fiancé’s family, Krista Miller knew she wanted to open a plus size women’s boutique there. “I was exploring uptown and saw a storefront that was going to be available for rent. I barely had time to think about it before jumping right in and signing the lease,” said Miller.

She signed the lease on September 1, 2017 and by the last day of the month, she was opening her doors. On the day of Cooper Ridge Collection’s grand opening, there were women lining up to get inside hours before the doors were scheduled to open. Miller recalled, “The day we opened was the scariest and greatest day of my life! There were women shopping wall to wall in the store and I knew I was meeting a need for women’s apparel.”

KristaMillerKrista is no stranger to plus size clothing stores. “When I was in college, I was so frustrated with plus sized clothing offerings I decided to open by own consignment boutique,” she said. She recalled the frustrations of having only limited stores with high priced clothes that were priced out of her college budget as well as the aggravations of shopping in thrift stores with little to no clothes to offer. With the help of her parents, she became not only a college student majoring in entrepreneurship, but started her first store offering quality and affordable consignment clothing options for plus size women.

“I was always a larger kid, and shopping for my size and body type was always a struggle for my parents and me when I was growing up,” said Miller. “I believe that every woman should have access to clothing that fits and flatters her body, no matter her size.”

With her fashion inspiration coming from her mother and a childhood friend, Krista was enthralled with classic and simple elegance and became interested in fashion. “My Mom dressed up for corporate America every day for 20 years and her outfits were always perfectly put together down to the classic statement jewelry she wore,” said Miller. She recalled the effortlessness in her mother’s elegance and wanted the same for herself and other plus sized women.

CooperRoad2In addition to her mother’s inspiration, she says her best friend from kindergarten was also a huge influence in helping her to develop her fashion sense. “She had this elegant and simple style with every outfit she wore. Her hair was perfectly curled or straightened for each outfit,” Miller recalled.

Inside the doors of Cooper Road Collection you will find plus sized women’s fashions ranging from sizes 12 – 28 and XL – 6X. The clothes will suit women of all ages and, most importantly, the Cooper Collection is local to Davidson County.

“There are limited options when shopping for plus sized clothing locally. Cooper Road Collection helps to fill that void,” according to Miller. “I’ve heard women express their disappointment when shopping some of the big box stores’ plus size sections. They feel the clothing isn’t catered to their age or the items aren’t trendy. At Cooper Road Collection, we have something for all ages, trendy and affordable!”

Cooper Road Collection
16 West Second Avenue
Lexington
On Facebook and Instagram: CooperRoadCollection

weddingplanning

5 TIPS TO REMOVE STRESS – PLANNING YOUR CHILD’S WEDDING

By Jessica Nance

Many people equate stress with wedding planning, but why? Yes, there are many details and you may feel like it will break the bank to make a perfect day, but shouldn’t it be enjoyed from start to finish? Here are a few practical ways to remove the stress so you can enjoy one of the most memorable days of their lives!

1. Let Go. It’s Their Day

This may be the hardest tip but the most important. Remember that each child is unique and may not want to have the wedding you had or you dream about. Traditional weddings are not trending now and each couple wants to bring in their own personality versus what etiquette may say. If you cannot find it in your heart to agree, you may want to look at hiring a professional planner to help you come to an agreement or meet in the middle. Planners are not counselors, but they are creative and have the experience to know how to talk through each issue that may arise.

2. Know Your Budget Before You Start

You need to have real conversations with your children about what you plan to contribute to their overall budget for their wedding. Make sure you decide if you are going to pay for parts like the dress, venue, and flowers, or if you plan to pay for the total. Many parents struggle to pay for the total wedding, especially if the couple plans to invite a large number of guests or has more expensive ideas for their big day. It is best to decide what dollar figure you plan to spend the minute the ring goes on!

This is the number one reason for stress in the planning process. The average wedding costs approximately $24,000 in Davidson County. This usually makes parents choke up a bit because their wedding cost around $5,000 in the 70s or 80s. Now weddings are a major social gathering and large production with the works for all of the couple’s friends and family. Make sure you save cash for this event because one thing people regret after the wedding is that lingering credit card bill. One idea to help is to look at all-inclusive options that you can pay monthly for the full wedding versus paying for a lot at one time. Just make sure your child knows what you will be contributing so they do not assume and end up stressing out over a bill they did not expect.

3. The Big Day – Help!

This, coming from a professional planner, is one of the major items people forget about until the last minute and forget to include it in the budget – a director! You have spent so much time, effort, and money on this perfect day for your child, but how will it all happen if you are playing the parent role? You can’t help your child get ready, look pretty yourself, greet/host guests, direct people down the aisle, check to make sure the cake arrived, and still keep yourself together emotionally if you are trying to run the show!

Hire a professional director to take what you have invested in and make it all happen without a worry. Focus your time on your family and, more importantly, on your child that is giving their heart to your new son or daughter in law. Directors should create a custom timeline, direct the rehearsal, give you professional advice, move guests from space to space, and coordinate with all of your vendors. Weddings without directors can become a hot mess very quickly. The average professional director with an assistant costs around $1200 for their services.

4. Set Up and Clean Up

OH ME! The dreaded issue of TIME at your venue and all the STUFF that must happen during that time! This is another professional service I would highly suggest you invest in. Some directors can add this service and work it into their team’s timeline. Many think about how long it will take for the actual event, but are never realistic about the time it takes to put everything out and clean it all up. Know what you are contracting when you hire someone. Does the caterer or venue take the trash? How long do you have the venue so you know how to time out the day? What items may need muscle? Did you remember to pay additional for the florist to do a set up of the flowers? So many things will result in stress if you don’t pre-plan for time needed at the beginning and the end. Plus, who wants guests to walk into the ceremony site that is not complete?

5. Knowing Responsibilities and Working Together

This is a subject that can cause stress emotionally. Make sure you know what the couple wants you to be involved in and what they want to do alone. Some have a great relationship and want parents involved in everything, but some find it easier to make the decisions themselves and have you just be there as a supporter. Also, consider the other child’s parents. Most parents want to be involved in some fashion. Plan out in the beginning what task you can give everyone to make anyone that wants to be involved feel, well, involved. Emotions are very high when it comes to planning out one of the biggest steps your child will make, so be considerate of how to respect your child’s wishes but help make others feel important, too.

Side tip: the Bridal shower or luncheon may be a great way to involve people that may not be involved in the wedding.

Hang in there parents! It may be an emotional and slightly bumpy ride, but remember: Be considerate, but honest. Make sure you are supportive, but not in the spotlight. Let your children shine on their day while you enjoy watching what they have become and the adventure they are now undertaking. Hire professionals and get references from people with real experience. Above all, happy planning and congratulations on extending your family!

 

RichieSimmons-photo

Richie Simmons for Sheriff

Modernize and Prioritize Davidson County Sheriff’s Office
Conservative Republican Richie Simmons’
3-Point Plan to Improve Public Safety and Reduce Crime

With 31 years of law enforcement experience, Richie Simmons is the only candidate with a comprehensive plan to improve public safety in Davidson County. Simmons is a retired North Carolina Highway Patrol Sergeant and has been a state/municipal law enforcement officer, instructor, SWAT team member, and supervisor. He has the skills and experience to be our next Sheriff of Davidson County.
Richie has a 3 -Point Plan to bring modern ideas and professional leadership to our Sheriff’s Office.

Point 1 – Tough on the Bad, Work for the Good
A Simmons-led Sheriff’s Office will create a specialized Heroin Intervention Strategy where investigators will respond to all overdose scenes to gather evidence and aggressively target dealers and distributors. They will establish partnerships with federal, state, and local law enforcement to target, track, and arrest drug dealers in our community. Richie’s team will work to create a Warrant Intercept Program to withhold state tax refunds of individuals with outstanding warrants.

Point 2 – Real Community Policing for Davidson County
To target criminals preying on our community, Richie’s administration will establish the first Crime Suppression/Breaking and Entering Task Force in Davidson County. Deputies will also be trained to perform security assessments of residential and business properties while teaching owners better ways to secure their property. A viable senior citizens welfare check program will be developed to protect our elderly residents. Richie believes that law enforcement must be proactive, not merely reactive, to minimize crime.

Point 3 – Modernize our Sheriff’s Office
Today, criminals utilize advanced smart phones and apps to commit crimes. Our deputies should not be pursuing these criminals using outdated systems. A Simmons-led administration will bring data-driven technology to Davidson County policing. Numerous software systems to assist in proactive law enforcement tactics are available at little to no cost. Using these sophisticated systems will allow us to improve training and operational efficiency.

New Programs to Reduce Crime and Protect Our Community
HOPE (Heroin Overdose Prevention and Education) – HOPE will bring community and government experts together to work on real solutions.

TAME (Teen Alcohol and Marijuana Education) – TAME will bring school resource officers, education officials, and parents together to create programs that reduce the number of teens developing addictive behaviors.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement 287(g) Program – Our Detention Center will work with federal partners to identify and remove illegal immigrants who commit dangerous crimes.
Prepared – A series of free public safety classes will be offered to our citizens that teach life-saving skills and ways to keep their property safe.

Visit our website at RichieSimmons.com to learn how you can help and to stay informed.

The May 8th Primary WILL decide the race for Davidson County Sheriff. Make sure you are registered to vote as a Republican or Unaffiliated by April 13th in order to elect Richie Simmons as your new sheriff.

Help us make Davidson County a better and safer place to live.

Paid for by Richie Simmons for Sheriff 2018