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Crawford Furniture fights to survive in ailing economy Workers were laid off, manufacturing plant was closed Aug. 15

Crawford Furniture Manufacturing Corp., a more than 125-year-old Jamestown maker of American solid-wood furniture, is struggling to survive.

"We're having problems in this economy just like every other company, but we're fighting to keep jobs in Western New York and to sell American," said Michael Cappa, the company's president and chief executive officer.

Furniture orders through national vendors have slowed dramatically, as have sales at the company's retail stores, Cappa said. The company laid off workers and closed its manufacturing facility Aug. 15. The Hamburg store has been closed, possibly temporarily.

Customers have complained of unfulfilled orders, but Cappa said the company is working to fill them.

"If someone has an issue they need resolved right away, they can go to one of the other stores, but the records from the Hamburg store are locked in there, so it won't do much good," he said. "I hope they will be able to wait until we reopen."

The company found itself locked out of its Hamburg retail location and a Cheektowaga warehouse last week by landlord Benderson Development.

Cappa said there was a misunderstanding over how late rent payments were applied.

"I got a little behind, and I've been working with them for months making payments. Last Tuesday, they gave me an ultimatum, and I almost fell off my chair," he said. "They said they were going to lock up if I didn't pay by Wednesday. I sent them a plan that I would have it worked out by Friday, but they locked me out."

Cappa said he put up a sign saying the store was closed for inventory so customers wouldn't panic. Benderson Development put up another sign saying the property had been "sealed."

Attorneys for Cappa and Benderson were in talks Tuesday, and Cappa said he hoped he would be able to reopen the store by this weekend.

Cappa has worked at Crawford Furniture since 1980 and took over the company after his father, Carl, the previous owner, died in 2001. The company began opening retail outlets eight years ago, which were profitable for a while but became something of an albatross during the economic downturn, Cappa said.

Besides the Hamburg store, Crawford has retail outlets in Amherst, Lakewood and Lockport and as well as offices in Jamestown and the Cheektowaga warehouse. The Hamburg and Lockport locations, as well as the Cheektowaga warehouse, are all on Benderson property, but only the Cheektowaga and Hamburg sites have been locked. Cappa said the Lockport store is under a different lease, Cappa said.

"The matter has been turned over to legal counsel, and once it goes there, we can't comment," said Eric Recoon, vice president of leasing and development and Benderson Development.


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