Michael Carlow, the new president of the Kittinger Co., today said he plans to restore the Buffalo furniture maker to profitability while keeping the same high quality for which it has been known for decades.
He said he plans to have the plant back in full operation with a full complement of 250 workers within six months.
The 39-year-old Pittsburgh financier has named himself president of the firm and said he will be in Buffalo three or four times a week until a new chief executive is named.
Carlow's previous business experience has been largely in the operation of cement companies. He said U.S. Cement is his biggest company. But he also has taken over a coal mining company, known as Mon Valley Steel, and a landfill company in Ohio.
Carlow said he learned about Kittinger about a year ago when he led an unsuccessful effort to buy another furniture company, Pennsylvania House, from the Quaker Oats Co. But, he said, it wasn't until two weeks ago that he made an attempt to buy Kittinger.
He toured the plant two weeks ago and on the following Wednesday made an offer. He did not disclose the amount of the offer or the final purchase price but said it was a cash deal.
Carlow said he put up 70 percent of his own money, with the other 30 percent coming from Max Alfery Jr., also of Pittsburgh. Alfery is the new treasurer of the furniture company. His brother, Joseph, is the new marketing manager.
Joseph Alfery said that he intended to continue marketing the Kittinger line as the top line of furniture but said there might be some changes in the product manufactured at the Elmwood Avenue plant.
Carlow said that, although Kittinger has lost the key Colonial Williamsburg contract, he has a meeting Wednesday with Colonial Williamsburg people to attempt to get it back in the future.
He said that Kittinger had its best years when it was a family operation and felt it could best operate being run like a family.
He said that there's no question that the company made a fine product and its workers were skilled. "The workers are not the problem," he said.
He said it was important to build the morale of the employees and get their confidence.
County Executive Gorski called the announcement that Carlow had taken over Kittinger "unexpected good news." Gorski spoke at a press conference called by Carlow in the Hyatt Regency Buffalo. During the conference, the county executive made Carlow an honorary citizen of the county.