Former TFI facilities up for auction

Apr. 02, 2014 @ 08:58 AM

Four former Thomasville Furniture Industries buildings are up for auction as part of the liquidation of Furniture Brands International (FBI).
KPS Capital Partners, a private equity firm, in September created Heritage Home Group to oversee the $280 million investment needed to get FBI out of bankruptcy.
More than a dozen locations were involved in the bankruptcy case, including four in Thomasville – the TFI showroom, 405 E. Main St., the Plant N lumberyard, 150 Jennings St, a production innovation center, 205 Taylor St., and a facility at 505-515 County Line Road. TFI, Henredon, Drexel Heritage, Broyhill, Maitland-Smith Pearson and La Barge all fall under the FBI umbrella.
“A million thoughts go through your brain when you talk about all these properties,” City Manager Kelly Craver said. “First and foremost, we would love to see the properties fully utilized and be part of a vibrant part of town. It is our fear that they will be under-utilized and will not be a positive aspect of our town. You have to look at it from both sides.”
Heritage Home Group in January announced the closings of Plant C and Plant C-Area 100, resulting in 84 lost jobs. Operations at the two facilities ended on March 21.
With four large manufacturing buildings set to sit empty, Craver said there are several challenges the city faces in trying to fill them. The best suited facility for a new owner is the showroom on East Main Street. The building still is fairly modern and is a prime location in the downtown area. The problem, Craver said is the sheer size of it, even though the sales price could be a bargain.
“The most likely scenario, it will sell for pennies on the dollar,” said Craver. “The asking price for the TFI showroom is $10 per square foot, which is $2.25 million. It may go for well under half that, I have no idea. It is still a very modern office building that could easily be upfitted for the same type of use.”
Both the city and county have expressed interest in the showroom, but a major hurdle is being able to use the all 225,000 square feet.
“If the city bought it, we couldn't utilize it to capacity,” Craver said. “But it may be time for another look at it. Never say never if the price is right. Four hundred people used to work in that building. I don't have 400 employees, I have 275.”
Finding buyers for the other buildings, Craver said, depends on the market and the demand for manufacturing facilities that aren't fitted for modern use.
“You don't know how many people are in the market for those type of buildings.,” Craver said. “A lot of the problems with the old manufacturing space is that aren't truly modern buildings. The manufacturing floor is a lot different than it was 40-50 years ago. Some of these buildings are much older than that. They don't have the high ceilings that modern manufacturers are looking for. They're sort of limited in how they fit in this manufacturing world.”
One option being talked about of late is knocking down some of these old furniture plants and re-investing in the property itself.
“If it can't be renovated in a cost effective manner, that might be the best option in the long run – start with dirt,” said Craver.
Hilco Real Estate set a June 19 deadline for bids on the properties.
For more information, visit hilcorealestate.com.

Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or duke@tvilletimes.com.