Kittinger is coming back.
The top-of-the-line furniture maker, which long was one of Buffalo's most prominent and prestigious names, closed more than a year ago, but a small local furniture manufacturer is reviving the Kittinger name and hopes to recapture some of its namesake's past glory and business.
American Executive Furniture, a year-old Buffalo firm started by a former Kittinger worker and staffed with former Kittinger craftsmen, has acquired the rights to the Kittinger name.
For less than $500,000, American Executive Furniture acquired the Kittinger name, patents, drawings and 50,000 square feet of inventory, including parts and patterns, currently housed at 1893 Elmwood Ave.
But it's the Kittinger name considered priceless by American Executive Furniture -- in the world of top quality furnishings there is no more respected name.
"This is like winning the lottery. We've been working on this for the last 10 months," said Ann Marie Luhr, an American Executive Furniture spokeswoman and a former Kittinger employee. The American Executive Furniture name will give way to Kittinger in the very near future.
American Executive Furniture's bid for the intellectual and physical remains of Kittinger was accepted by the bankruptcy trustee in charge of the company's bankruptcy proceedings. Kittinger, in business for more than 100 years, went out of business roughly 18 months ago when its final owner, Pittsburgh financier Michael Carlow, was caught playing fast and loose with finances passed between his various companies.
But Raymond Bialkowski, a former 17-year Kittinger employee, realizing that demand for high-quality handcrafted furniture remained even though Kittinger didn't, founded American Executive Furniture some 14 months ago.
Located in the Tri-Main building, a former Trico Products factory at 2495 Main St., the firm employs five former Kittinger workers with a combined 100-plus years of woodworking experience. The firm was making a name for itself, supplying furniture to such places as Corpus Christi and Houston, Texas, and the Cayman Islands.
Now, with the Kittinger name, patterns and drawings in hand, Bialkowski plans to immediately add five employees, and another five within the next few months. American Executive Furniture also is expanding its space from 8,000 square feet on the Tri-Main building's third floor to include the entire 50,000-square-foot sixth floor.
Even before acquiring the name, Bialkowski was trying to cash in on the defunct furniture maker's past by securing Kittinger's old telephone number for his new firm.