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‘Quite A Run Here’

Bestar-Bush Sees Growth, Hiring Need Amid COVID

A showroom at Bush Industries features new product lines that include home furniture, a symbol of the company’s increasingly diverse offerings. P-J photos by Cameron Hurst

The furniture manufacturer formerly known as Bush Industries has made lemonade out of the lemons provided to them by the outbreak of COVID-19 — and then some.

Bestar-Bush is reporting a 40% increase in sales so far this year, months after completing a merger between one of Jamestown’s flagship stakeholders and a Canadian competitor and despite a two-month forced shutdown of operations due to the novel coronavirus.

As a result, the company is looking to fill over 50 positions at its One Mason Drive plant to meet the demand.

“It is really remarkable,” Mike Evans, president and CEO, told The Post-Journal. “We keep pinching ourselves. It’s been quite a run here. We were off to a really good start before the virus hit in March and were already doing extremely well year over year. We were having very strong sales months.”

Evans said that the company has seen significant growth since 2014. The pandemic has also forced a market need for home office furniture. Paired with Bestar-Bush’s success in the ever evolving e-commerce market, Evans admitted the company is in “a great spot.”

“With people working from home, demand for home office — a key category for us — has been phenomenal,” he said. “Both our small business product and are our small home office product has just been going crazy.”

“I have never worked at a company that has been growing like this before,” said Angie Turner, director of human resources. “It’s almost unbelievable and it’s so sad to see how some companies have been so adversely affected by the virus and to see others that are flourishing. It’s a good problem to have.”

“We’re uniquely good at selling furniture through e-commerce channels,” Evans added. “That’s been our plan and our business strategy for years now. Because we’re extremely good at the supply chain management, we can ship very fast and we have really good e-marketing skillsets and content and we’re uniquely well-positioned.”

One of the market’s leading ready-to-assemble furniture makers, Bush was acquired by Quebec-based Bestar, which designs, manufactures, distributes and sells commercial office, home office, storage, bedroom, tables and garage storage furniture across North America in January.

Once the deal closed in February, the leadership teams of both met off-site to plan out the future. An on-site meeting at the headquarters in Sherbrooke, Quebec was planned for March 12 and eventually canceled after the United States-Canadian border was shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“We haven’t been able to meet face-to-face since late February,” Evans said, noting that inventory at an Erie, Pa., facility allowed distribution to continue until workers were allowed to return to the Mason Industrial Park facility in May. Meanwhile, the merger has slowly continued and resources have already been shared.

“We have a lot of efforts in place to really merge the two companies together,” he said. “We’ve already centralized the sales and largely there’s some pieces left, but the sales are largely centralized there. We’re going to be bringing Bestar product into our distribution centers so they can ship more rapidly which helps the sales go up. There’s been a lot of sharing and so forth.”

“We’re cross-selling products to different customers,” he added. “We’re selling products of Bush’s into Canada into Amazon and we’re planning to sell some of their products to our channel partners. Right now we can’t keep up which is a little bit of a problem.”

Fifty factory positions are open right now as the company prepares to ramp up a second shift to keep up with the growth. Several office positions are available as well. Turner said they’ve already filled around 30 positions since laborers were allowed to return to work in May.

“I’ve only been here for two years and I didn’t realize what a thriving entity Bush was,” she said. “There are so many youthful and experienced people that work here from so many diverse businesses. I think that’s really cool. We learn a lot from each other every day. It’s just a melting pot of a lot of really professional, knowledgeable people from different backgrounds. They are not all furniture people. It’s just cool.”

Evans agreed: the company is not what it used to be. Direct-to-consumer selling has allowed for the creation of new product lines and more commercial home furniture.

“It’s not an old fashioned furniture factory anymore,” he said. “It’s really an e-commerce furniture solutions business that sells directly and controls direct sales of the products to the shoppers online. Even though we sell through partners. It’s really a different business than the historical one that produced lots of furniture who sold it to retailers who then sold it to the customer. We now sell directly to the customer through these sites and we deliver directly to the customer.”

“It’s a good place to work and we’re looking for people to join our team and we’ve got a lot of very happy people that work for us,” he said. “It’s a great environment.”

Those interested can visit bush.com/careers or call 665-2000.

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