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The success story of custom furniture manufacturer Whitewood Industries has been the transfer of its ownership to its more than 300 employees.

The Thomasville company said Monday it was sold in December to its employees through an employee stock ownership plan program, known as ESOP.

It was founded in 1982 by Jorge Mata and Ron Feibel. They will remain in their management positions.

Whitewood Industries makes customized finished and unfinished solid wood upholstery and wooden furniture. Suggested retail price points for its products include $1,299 for a five-piece dining set and $1,999 for a bedroom group consisting of a queen-size bed frame, dresser and mirror.

According to Investopedia, the plan serves as a qualified defined-contribution employee benefit under the federal ERISA program.

The plan is designed to invest primarily in the stock of the sponsoring employer. The sponsoring company, the selling shareholder and participants receive various tax benefits.

Mata, the company's president, said the plan "ensures the company's long-term financial stability, as it helps align employee goals with company goals and improve organizational performance."

As a result, Mata said, employees "become a financial participant in the success of Whitewood and to help grow the company both in profitability and in efficiency of operations and customer service."

Employees must have been with the company for one year and be at least age 21 to be eligible to be part of the program. The company said 172 employees are participating.

The company has four divisions: Whitewood Ready-To-Finish (unfinished furniture); John Thomas Furniture (casual dining and custom finish programs); International Concepts (a supplier to specialty retailers); and Custom Contract Furnishings (designer/manufacturer contract upholstery).

Whitewood has expanded its operations in recent years to reach 578,000 square feet, which includes purchasing the 215 S. Main St. showroom building in the High Point Market district, and buying a 78,000-square-foot building at 1425 Unity St. in Thomasville in August 2006, and a 39,000-square-foot building in October 2015.

The company is known for taking cost-conscious furniture manufacturing back to the future in surviving a global industry shakeout.

All five Whitewood buildings previously served as a furniture plant or textile mill, with two acquired from a bank.

The three-story finishing and assembly plant at 7 Cox Ave. is the oldest. The site originally was a Thomasville finishing school/college for girls established by town founder John Thomas. Ragan Knitting Co. acquired the site when it debuted in 1918.

The Liberty Drive headquarters was bought by Sara Lee Corp. and before that Hanes. An upholstery company once operated the Whitewood plant at 928 Millis St., while the building on 1004 Old Thomasville Road in High Point previously belonged to Arpel Leather Co.


As seen in The Winston-Salem Journal.