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A local investment group has purchased Dinaire Corp., a furniture maker that employs 180 people, with plans to move its Buffalo operation to a sister plant in Cheektowaga.

Three Western New York businessmen bought the company from founder Carmelo Gugino Jr. for an undisclosed sum, aiming to grow sales of Dinaire's "casual" hardwood dining furniture.

The company plans to move operations at 601 Ohio St. in Buffalo's First Ward to its larger plant at 145 Gruner Road in Cheektowaga, said David Dunn, president and a member of the acquisition group. The Gruner Road site is also the company's headquarters. "That's something that's on the drawing board," he said, referring to the move.

A union official said moving from the "antiquated" Buffalo facility shouldn't hurt workers.

"It makes business sense . . . it puts everything under one roof," said Dan Dunlap, staff representative for the United Steelworkers of America. USW Local 740 represents the company's 150 production workers.

Dunn, a former executive vice president of Carborundum Corp. in Niagara Falls until 1996, wouldn't disclose the price for Dinaire or name the other two Western New York businessmen who make up the acquisition group.

The deal for the company included financing provided by Marine Midland Bank, Dunn said.

Founded by Gugino in 1946, Dinaire makes dining furniture positioned between informal kitchen furniture and traditional dining room sets, Dunn said. Most Dinaire products carry price tags between $1,800 and $2,900 for a set of four chairs and a table. The new owners hope to double Dinaire's $16 million annual sales in five years by updating styles and rejuvenating its lagging marketing efforts, he said. The company sells throughout the U.S. to department stores and other outlets through a network of 30 independent representatives.

John P. Cusack, a former representative for La-Z-Boy Chair Co., has been hired as Dinaire's vice president of sales with hopes of expanding its export business, Dunn said.

Cusack has experience opening foreign-distribution markets for American manufacturers including La-Z-Boy, Singer and Pennsylvania House, Dunn said.

Greater sales volume will turn Dinaire into a profitable operation, improving its current break-even financial performance, he said.

Although Western New York has not always been a fertile ground for manufacturers, the company benefits from a native supply of lumber that Dunn called superior.

"The look of the hardwood from Western New York and Appalachia is excellent . . . it's probably some of the best wood in the U.S," he said.

Dunlap said the production operation benefits from advanced machinery that Gugino continually invested in, improving the company's competitiveness.

"He was a fanatic about having modern equipment in his factory," Dunlap said.

The sale to a local group saved the 52-year-old company from being acquired by a competing furniture manufacturer, a move that would have shifted production out of the state, Gugino said.

"We felt we wanted to keep the work force here," he said. "They've been very loyal to us -- like family."

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